Exploring the relationship between capitalism and the discourse of multicultural democracy that animates the New South Africa's notion of itself as Rainbow Nation, this article attempts to understand why it is impossible for politically progressive postapartheid South African fiction, centrally concerned with social justice, to launch an effective critique of neoliberal capitalism in present day South Africa. Because South Africa's entry onto the global stage in 1994 was conditioned by the pivotal moment of globalization in which its Rainbow Nation democracy was forged, I argue that close readings of three texts—the 1955 Freedom Charter, which formed the basis of the New South African constitution; Phaswane Mpe's 2001 novel Welcome to Our Hillbrow; and the 2006 film Catch a Fire—shed light on globalization as a political-economic-cultural strategy. I suggest that Rainbow Nation democracy enables a sense of metaphorical “belonging” to the nation but not a material redistribution of national belongings in the concrete sense of possessions, private property, and land. Neoliberal globalization working through Rainbow Nation ideology performs a deft, dangerous conflation of capitalism with democracy that serves to further legitimize the persistence of economic injustice, and this conflation has wide reaching consequences for all (aspiring) democracies.
Research Article|January 01 2011
Melissa Tandiwe Myambo; Capitalism Disguised as Democracy: A Theory of “Belonging,” Not Belongings, in the New South Africa. Comparative Literature 1 January 2011; 63 (1): 64–85. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-1125295
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