Week 4: Neoliberalism Revisited

The focus of the readings this week is on neoliberalization of South African communities during both the apartheid period and post-apartheid. Each article examines a different case of consumerism and the role capitalism has played within the development of South African communities. The article written by Lynn Thomas discusses how the Krok brothers acquired their wealth through the manufacturing and marketing of skin lightening products. Thomas demonstrates how their social location contributed to their involvement within the trade and also how they used the social inequalities that made up the apartheid state to sell their products to Black Africans. The Krok brothers then again following the anti-apartheid movement used the money that was made off of the skin lightening products to build the Apartheid museum, that was dedicated to those who suffered under the apartheid state, alongside an entertainment complex that would generate a great deal of wealth. The Krok brothers faced heavy criticism and their reputations were tarnished greatly by the selling of dangerous skin products and their attempts at restoring their reputations through the establishment of the museum have been met by both appraisals and criticisms due to the fact that it was built off of wealth generated by products that fuel a hierarchy of beauty and social status.   Do you see the ironies within the efforts of the Krok brothers? Do you think that the Krok brothers should be criticized for the products they have created or applauded for their philanthropic efforts?

The article by Rebekah Lee focuses on funeral services in South Africa and how South African entrepreneurs have been able to create funerals into business opportunities. The idea that “life in town is dull and a funeral provides as good a form of entertainment as anything” (227) is something that is unfamiliar to me but is clearly not to South Africans. Within Western society funerals are generally part of the mourning process and time to grieve the loss of a loved one, it is usually not something that can be turned into a form of entertainment for those who are attending. In some way it can be seen that South Africans have been able to profit and capitalize of something that Western companies have not (yet). The article by Annika Teppo and Myriam Houssay-Holzschuch also looks at capitalistic ventures and the neoliberalization of Cape Town through the establishment of the new Gugulethu mall. The authors look at how the neoliberal processes have manifested within the township and how it has influenced a polarization between the wealthy and the poor. In theory and on paper the establishment of the mall provides many positive aspects like the promise of development, and its representation as a symbol of African pride, however the community was able to see the top-down nature of the project and were not accepting of this neoliberal venture.

M. Singlehurst 120372730

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