Week 4: Neoliberalism Revisited

This weeks articles were on the relationship between consumerism, capitalism, and entrepreneurship and how neo-liberalism interconnects with each topic. Each article brings a different element of each topic. The article by Rebekah Lee talks about funerals in South Africa. African funerals are large scale, often expensive and are shared throughout the community. The idea is to be able to give your loved ones an expensive funeral. This symbolizes the love that you had for them. Lee is interested in migration and the impact that it has on both the dead and alive. Entrepreneurs in South Africa specially bring value from when they were young with them into the urbanized areas. Lee does a good job at using a case study to analyze the affect and impact that funerals have in South Africa. Though, she does not seem to have a direct argument or opinion on whether the funeral ceremonies were something that is positive to have in South Africa. The article was great at giving explanations but I felt it lacked a clear message.

The article on Cape Town, and the Gugulethu shopping centre was very intriguing. The author did a good job at incorporating the the history of Cape town post-apartheid and explaining how the new Neo-liberalism take on the township fit together. Similar to the readings of last week on Oxford Street, Gugulethu Square is a urbanized area dead smack in the middle of a township surrounded by match box houses, poverty, crime and death. This article took a different approach than Oxford Street: Accra, where implementing westernized shopping malls and attracting tourism was not a good thing.
The mall is said to be there to represent the struggle. Though not everything in this township is about inequalities and suffrage and that is apparent through the new ideas and practices. Though, the author seems to think that, “selling African revolution to white people with whiteness shows the multidimensional plasticity of neoliberalismization process.” I seem to agree with the author in a sense that through neo-liberalism, we are attempting to sell as Westernized view. Especially because all of the outside investments made towards the shopping square are from white powerful investment companies. Though a question that was thought of a lot throughout these three readings were,is this truly that bad? Yes, the two Jewish brothers are bringing an almost racist practice to South Africa, but could the global capital be benefiting? As mentioned in the article, The Gugulethu mall raised concerns for locals because it was supposed to provide many jobs as well as house local stores and local sellers inside the mall but instead has brought in outside vendors.
I think that bringing entrepreneurship and capitalism into South Africa, in the right context could potentially be a good thing. Starting a funeral business has brought a lot of rich to South Africa, and the mall has provided a booming urbanized area. Does consumerism, specifically in Africa countries have to always be considered a negative? Do typical imposed “Western” ideologies have to always be a negative impact?
J. Flood
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