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After Apartheid: Consensus, Contention, and Gender in South Africa's Public Sphere

Shireen Hassim
International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society
Vol. 22, No. 4, 1989 and Beyond: The Future of Democratic Politics (II) (Dec., 2009), pp. 453-464
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25621941
Page Count: 12
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After Apartheid: Consensus, Contention, and Gender in South Africa's Public Sphere
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Abstract

The South African transition from apartheid to democracy is one of the iconic developments of the late twentieth century coming soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The country, led by a universally admired Nelson Mandela, seemed to embody the world's hopes for peace and democracy. In the aftermath of the first inclusive elections in 1994, South Africans adopted one of the world's finest constitutions and set up a modern and representative system of governance. However, the euphoria was not sustained. Economic inequality rose; poverty appears intractable, and an increasingly angry citizenry seems less willing to adhere to the liberal norms of tolerance and respect for difference. This article lays out some dimensions of the new conflicts detailing the intolerance for outsiders and violence against women and gay and lesbian people. I argue that the quality of democracy is not measured by its formal institutions important they may be. Rather, it is in the interactions between citizens in the public sphere that we are able to ascertain the extent to which democratic values have become normalized. Viewed from this perspective, it is evident that the legacies of distrust and antagonism continue to shape the possibilities of democratic deliberation in the public sphere.

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