Week 4: Neoliberalism

Joshua Steinborn – 111547440

This week readings relate the influence of neoliberalism and the economic expansion in Africa.   The first article by Lynn Thomas discusses the trade of ‘skin lighteners’ to dark skinned Africans and why it was so lucrative.  Jewish entrepreneurs immigrated to South Africa and were able to set up successful businesses.  This raises the issue of outside influence in local economies and taking advantage of certain markets. With the profits of their products, twin brothers Abraham and Solomon Krok were able to finance the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg which lasts as a memory of the struggles and discrimination caused by the social and racial disparities.  However, as benevolent as the Krok brothers seem to be in there intentions of the museum, the fact remains that they are businessmen and perhaps the museum is simply another endeavor pursued for financial gain rather than for memorializing the past as is suggested.

Another article discusses the funeral business and the opportunity that arose for further financial gain based on increased amounts of fatalities of migrants.  Entrepreneurs again rose to the occasion to make money from the living who wanted to pay respects to family and friends who passed away.  Even though Lee says that these entrepreneurs should not be seen as exploiters as they continue to shape the local mourning process and spiritual rites, it still sounds a little too capitalist.

The last article revolves around the shopping mall, Gugulethu Square and the neoliberal affects it has on the local social and economic structure in Cape Town.  The authors discuss how the mall must work to be appealing to everyone, and for this to be possible, perhaps post-apartheid exploitation is at work to attract more customers.  This is a Western ideal of capitalism and neoliberalism.  It is the continued Western notion of trickle-down economics, whereby the wealthy attempt to provide business opportunities to those less fortunate, but also for their own financial gain.  Clearly, the South Africans of Cape Town saw through the façade are not accepting of the new Gugulethu Square.

Many of the economic development plans come from Western ideals, however, is it possible that African economics are different than Western economics and the solutions must therefore be inherently African?  Is there a way that Western and African neoliberal ideas can coexist or hybridize to be more effective?


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