From Democracy as Political System to Democracy as Government: a contribution to democratic theory from public administration


This paper argues that South Africa suffered a major democratic reversal after the election of Jacob Zuma as president of the country in 2009, especially from 2012 when the project of Radical Economic Transformation was pursued with vigour in State Owned Companies (SOEs).This reversal was invisible theoretically. Contemporary definitions of democracy, especially as they inform the literature on political transitions, reduce the phenomenon to the rules of political participation. Yet over the last ten years South Africa saw, not so much a rolling back of political rights as concerted attacks on the autonomy of state administrations. Without the conceptual tools to understand these attacks on the bureaucracy as attacks on democracy, the period from 2007 to 2017 has largely been construed in terms of corruption, criminality and patronage. This paper adds a new typology to democratic theory, reconciling a concept from public administration to democratic theory. It argues that we must think of bureaucratic autonomy as a democratic virtue.

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