Week 4: Neoliberalism Revisited

In the first article, Skin Lighteners, Black Consumers and Jewish Entrepreneurs in South Africa, author Lynn Thomas discusses the opening of the Apartheid Museum in 2005 in the city of Johannesburg, financed by South African twin brothers Abraham and Solomon Krok. The Krok brothers hold significance in relation to this project because they dominated the country’s skin-lighteners market beginning in the 1950’s until 1990, when the products were legally banned due to medical implications and the negative image they portrayed towards race (260). After years of criticism and backlash from numerous groups, individuals and organizations, it is clear that participating in the finance department of this monumental museum is merely to rebuild their reputation amongst different race populations throughout the country. It is not surprising that these brothers took this step because many businessmen partake in philanthropic projects in order to increase profit and their status amongst locals. I do not think these brothers have genuine intentions because although they are showcasing an image of “giving back” for everyone to see, they built and sustained a company for years that highly contributed to the very environment in which race, crime and apartheid problems first existed.

Do you think it possible to participate in philanthropic efforts without an underlying, personal incentive? Is it possible for an individual to give back to a specific issue even if the individual, or their company, participated in producing the environment that caused the issue? Think about the example of Coca-Cola: the company has a “save the polar bears” campaign every winter, but the reason the polar bears need “saving” is because of global warming, a problem that Coca-Cola significantly contributes to with their numerous, massive factories emitting carbon dioxide daily. Are these acts conducted by businessmen “Band-Aid solutions” yet better than not contributing at all? What implications would arise if these campaigns and philanthropic efforts did not exist?

In the second article, Death “On the Move”: Funerals, Entrepreneurs and the Rural-Urban Nexus in South Africa, funeral particulars and trends, in conjunction with perceptions of the dead body are historically and contemporarily critiqued. In addition, funeral entrepreneurs and directors are assessed in the relation to these processes and their role with both dead and alive people in the community.

The last article, Gugulethu: Revolution For Neoliberalism in a South African Township, focuses on neoliberalism in post-apartheid spatial practices in the mall Gugulethu in Cape Town, South Africa. In analyzing this, neoliberal and local township viewpoints are critiqued, concluding that local individuals have not adapted well to this new development. Crime and racism are thoroughly discussed, as they significantly affect these perspectives, with most attention on the distrust local individual have towards those who have developed, promoted and marketed the new mall.f

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