Author Identifiers

Benjamin Alexander Hale

ORCID: 0000-0003-0621-4897

Date of Award

2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy of Politics and International Relations

School

School of Arts and Humanities

First Advisor

Associate Professor Debbie Rodan

Second Advisor

Dr David Robinson

Field of Research Code

1603, 0606, 2103

Abstract

This thesis examines the extent to which the ANC is hegemonic within South Africa, the degree to which this hegemonic project is neoliberal, and how resistance to this project is articulated within civil society. Drawing on the work of authors such as Patrick Bond, Ashwin Desai, and Sagie Narsiah this thesis applies a Gramscian theoretical framework to examine ways in which neoliberalism is manifested through ANC economic policies and the ANC’s bid for hegemony within South Africa. It also explores the role of unions and social movements as sites of counter-hegemonic resistance, with an emphasis on the activities of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) after 2014. This study employs an interpretative methodological approach combining analyses of electoral data, newspapers and interview transcripts of ‘organic intellectuals’ to critique power and dominance in post-Apartheid South Africa. This is keenly informed by Gramscian understandings of hegemony and ‘common sense’ which emphasise the importance of ‘organic intellectuals’ in contesting and forming the structures of the historic bloc. This thesis finds that the hegemonic project centred on the ANC is limited or fractured, with the failure of the ANC’s broadly neoliberal economic policies fostering division within the Tripartite Alliance. Further, although neoliberalism has deeply penetrated ‘common sense’ understandings, growing criticism of the ANC has fundamentally undermined the state’s ability to mobilise consent and build consensus. However, this hegemonic project is highly elastic, with the ANC tempering its neoliberal policies with state interventions in the form of state housing, public-works programmes, and social grants. Thus, despite being perceived by ‘organic intellectuals’ as lacking hegemony, the ANC still has electoral hegemony and has succeeded thus far in preventing the emergence of an alternative hegemonic project. Further, NUMSA’s attempt to bring together unions, social movements and community organisations within a United Front are of limited significance in challenging the hegemony of the ANC neoliberal project.

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