South Africa Pushed to the Limit: The Political Economy of Change

Since 1994, the democratic government in South Africa has worked hard at improving the lives of the black majority, yet close to half the population lives in poverty, jobs are scarce, and the country is more unequal than ever. For millions, the colour of a person's skin still decides their destiny. In its wide-ranging, incisive and provocative analysis, South Africa Pushed to the Limit shows that although the legacies of apartheid and colonialism weigh heavy, many of the strategic choices made since the early 1990s have compounded those handicaps. The economy remains dominated by a handful of large conglomerates that are now entwined in the circuitry of the global economy. The government, meanwhile, has squandered crucial leverage in a series of miscalculations and errors. The social costs have been punishing. Marais explains why those choices were made, where they went awry, and why South Africa's vaunted formations of the left – old and new – have failed to prevent or alter them. 

Building on his acclaimed book Limits to Change, Marais examines South Africa's most pressing issues – from the real reasons behind President Jacob Zuma's rise and the purging of his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, and how the African National Congress replenishes its power, to a devastating critique of the country's continuing AIDS crisis, its economic path and its approach to the rights and entitlements of citizens. South Africa Pushed to the Limit presents a riveting, benchmark analysis of the incomplete journey beyond apartheid.

Praise for the Book

'An extraordinary achievement. This is, by a considerable margin, the best book yet on the political economy of South Africa. Marais combines an unrivalled knowledge of the literature with a prose style that is accessible, moving and witty. I know of very few authors who can discuss such complex issues while telling a story and engaging the reader.' – John Sender, Emeritus Professor of Economics, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and Fellow of Wolfson College, University of Cambridge

'South Africa Pushed to the Limit will become a classic. I doubt whether anyone can match Marais' grasp of where South Africa is at today.' – Bill Freund, Professor of Economic History, University of KwaZulu-Natal; author of The Making of Contemporary Africa

'Combining powerful analysis with a wealth of documentation, South Africa Pushed to the Limit provides by far the best overview of political, economic and social change in post-apartheid South Africa. Essential reading for anyone trying to understand one of the great social experiments of our time.' – Gillian Hart, Professor of Geography and Chair of Development Studies at the University of California at Berkeley; author of Disabling Globalization: Places of power in post-apartheid South Africa


'If students can read only one book on South Africa's transition, this should be the book.' – Jaclyn Cock, Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Witwatersrand

'Hein Marais is probably the most intelligent and articulate author who writes about South Africa in a Marxist paradigm.' – David Welsh, Emeritus Professor, University of Cape Town.

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