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Neocosmos, Michael  (2004) The State of the Post-apartheid State: the poverty of critique on the South African left. Centre for Civil Society : 1-15.

This book sees itself as the first in a series of volumes which is explicitly designed to recover the critical edge of the South African Review Series which was published in the 1980s as a collection of semi-journalistic, semi-academic essays on political processes and trends in the country during the anti-apartheid struggle. The first volume was published in 1983 and the last in 1994; it thus covered exactly a decade, the decade of the mass popular upsurge against the apartheid state. The pieces in the series were overwhelmingly of left persuasion and overwhelmingly written by White academics . Despite the differences between the theoretical orientations of the chapters, the series was able to sustain a critical perspective of the apartheid state over the whole length of the publication period, apart that is from the celebratory last volume (number seven called “the small miracle”) which was totally bereft of critical analysis. The quality of the pieces was often variable, but in the euphoria of the times and the excitement of the struggle, not everyone noticed the relative absence of theory. The main debates, workerism-populism, transformation-liberation, civil society, RDP and so on did not take place within the series but were published elsewhere. The first issue and the last two (6 & 7) evidently concentrated on state institutions, policies, legislation and sectors, the second on the initial popular stirrings against the state, the volumes in between (3, 4 & 5) could not help but give more emphasis to issues raised by the mass popular movement, while number 6 provided some kind of transitional perspective between the decline of the popular struggle and elite-pacting. The series was thus not without its problems. Thus, it could have reasonably been expected that one of the first chapters of the current volume would have provided a review of the Review so to speak. In the absence of a critical review of the past, it is arguably difficult if not impossible to expect anyone to move to a critical understanding of the present, especially if the idea is to open up possibilities for a better future. This however has not happened, and I will suggest here that the consequences of this absence have been overwhelmingly negative for the development of a critical thinking on the Left in this country.

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