A moral economy of citizenship post-apartheid South Africa?

S. J. Cooper-Knock*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter explores the extent to which E.P. Thompson’s notion of the ‘moral economy’ can be useful in helping us understand political promises, relationships and resistance in post-apartheid South Africa. I argue that in order for the concept of the ‘moral economy’ to have analytical traction in South Africa, several adaptations need to be made to Thompson’s original formulation. Once this is done, the ‘moral economy of citizenship’ can be useful in helping us to understand the ‘politics of patience’ in South Africa over the last two decades. Ultimately, however, I argue that the concept is too limiting, as it constrains us to a singular logic of statehood and encourages us to overlook the normatively fickle nature of the law in post-apartheid South Africa. Instead, I argue, we need to explore the everyday moral economies that people forge, many of which are in ‘permissive spaces’ outside the law. Only then can we more fully understand political realities and resistance in post-apartheid South Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPolitical Values and Narratives of Resistance
Subtitle of host publicationSocial Justice and the Fractured Promises of Post-colonial States
EditorsFiona Anciano, Joanna Wheeler
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781000362084
ISBN (Print)9780367639037
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2021

Publication series

NameRoutledge Research on Decoloniality and New Postcolonialisms


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