Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751
WAGENER, Pieter. Globalisation and a divided community in South Africa. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2008, vol.48, n.4, pp.401-411. ISSN 2224-7912.
Globalisation is characterised by the economic control of national economies by two entities: multi-national enterprises (MNEs), with their foreign direct investment (FDI) policies, and the international financial institutions, which place neo-liberal economic conditions on loans and economic aid to developing countries. We analyse these influences on the socio-economic structure of the South African community, with special reference to the existence of two disparate developed groups in the country. These two groups, depicted by convention as white and black, respond in different ways to the socio-economic effects of globalisation. The white group is part of the cultural heritage of globalisation, as driven predominantly by European industrialised countries, and is not adversely affected to the same extent as the black group, which has been catapulted into the global era. To analyse the consequences of the impact, we look at five main periods of socio-economic transformations in European, or Western, history. These correspond approximately to: • The period from the Magna Carta of1215 to the establishment of a parliamentary democracy in England after the execution of Charles I in 1649; • The Industrial Revolution from about 1760 to 1830; • The period from the American and French revolutions to the end of World War II (~1780-1946); • The Atomic Age from World War II to about 1990; • The present Global Age. If we combine the second and third transformations we have successive periods of 434, 200, 40 and 15 years. The acceleration of the transformation periods had disruptive effects on the sociological structure of Western society. This structure changed along the periods successively as rural farming, industrial workers, general commerce, technological society and the global village. European society adapted to these transitions over centuries, but the countries of Africa did not have that leisure. Black society now has to cope with aggressive marketing campaigns and peer pressure to transform previously predominant rural societies into consumer ones. One result is reminiscent of European transformation during the second to third periods, which is described as "A society in which all members had relations of obligation and reciprocity to all others gave way to one in which individuals in their different roles were cut off from each other, and related to each other only within the marketplace." This reflects the present change in South Africa from the mutual concern of ubuntu to the competitive style of commerce and consumerism. This acculturation is showing deleterious effects on black society. Previously unknown Western-type diseases such as heart disease and diabetes are emerging as major killers. Obesity is becoming rampant due to changes in eating habits, encouraged by advertising campaigns of fast-food MNEs. Another consequence of modern marketing campaigns is the encouragement of debt. This is a worldwide phenomenon, but in Africa it can lead to serious political instability and social unrest. Uncontrolled debt leads to unreasonable demands for higher salaries, which will discourage further FDI. This will lead to a downward economic spiral and an increase in unemployment. The present collapse of financial institutions in the US holds dire consequences for the economies of emerging markets. It is expected that the flow of funds to the developing world could be cut by 25%, making it imperative that South Africa, the industrial dynamo of Africa, uses all of its human and industrial resources to soften the blow to this continent. In this regard the continual loss of white expertise to the developed world should be reversed as a matter of urgency. The upper middle class white sector in South Africa has adapted relatively effortlessly to global changes, which has resulted in a widening gap in affluence between white and black. The success of the white sector can be ascribed to its historical exposure to globalisation and finding methods to deal with it. The Afrikaner, in its isolation in the past, has been particularly adroit in adapting successfully to global changes. In this regard the white sector, especially its entrepreneurs, must be seen as an asset in competing in the new global economy and that economic development in South Africa is dependent on a greater involvement of this group. For this reason urgent consideration must be given to relax the strictures of affirmative action.
Keywords : Globalisation; labour rights; development; debt burden; Africa.