Political Scientist Steven Friedman talks about Freedom for the Few:Ending the Middle Class Monopoly on South African Democracy.
“That South African democracy has survived nearly two decades largely intact has confounded predictions and needs explaining. The chief reason lies in the persistence, post-1994, of strong concentrations of private power, which have checked authoritarian impulses in government. While this has ensured democracy’s survival, it has also ensured that its defense has largely been mounted in the language of white, middle class, suburbia – and that freedom is largely seen as the protection of the economic and cultural domination of the few” comments Friedman.
Democracy is clearly too important to be left to so narrow a support base and the key challenge currently is to broaden the social base of support for democracy. An illustrative example of limits and possibilities is the experience of Cosatu, the largest organised interest group outside the middle class, which has played a role in defending democracy. Friedman explores these ideas in his book Building Tomorrow Today -a study of the South African trade union movement and the implications of its growth for democracy.
Professor Steven Friedmanis Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at Rhodes University and the University of Johannesburg. He is a political scientist who has specialised in the study of democracy. Friedman has researched and published widely on the South African transition to democracy both before and after the elections of 1994 and has, over the past decade, largely written on the relationship between democracy on the one hand and social inequality and economic growth on the other; in particular, stressing the role of citizen voice in strengthening democracy and promoting equality.
He is also the editor of The Long Journey and The Small Miracle (with Doreen Atkinson), which presented the outcome of two research projects on the South African transition. He is currently studying the role of citizen action in strengthening and sustaining democracy.
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