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Indirect Rule in South Africa

Indirect Rule in South Africa: Tradition, Modernity, and the Costuming of Political Power

Volume: 33
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 156
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  • Book Info
    Indirect Rule in South Africa
    Book Description:

    Indirect rule -- the British colonial policy of employing indigenous tribal chiefs as political intermediaries -- has typically been understood by scholars as little more than an expedient solution to imperial personnel shortages.A reexamination of the hi

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-742-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. 1 Indirect Rule
    (pp. 1-15)

    In the summer of 1957, at the British Colonial Office’s Conference on African Administration, a working group convened to discuss “the place of chiefs in African administration” reported their finding that “the brilliant classical period of indirect rule is over.”¹ With independence movements now sweeping the continent and the decolonization of Africa in full swing, the Colonial Office put its best face forward, declaring (if already a bit nostalgically) the successful tenure of a form of governance that had become its hallmark.

    The origins of indirect rule can be traced back at least as far as the 1850s in the...

  6. 2 From Native Administration to Separate Development
    (pp. 16-37)

    The extension of chieftaincy’s legal foundation during the 1920s makes clear the presumption on the part of South Africa’s segregationist leaders that indirect rule was far more than a temporary colonial expedient. Yet, during the first half of the twentieth century, as the forces of modernity increasingly transformed the whole of South African society, the institutions of indirect rule came under mounting pressure. As industrialization drove the relocation of workers from rural villages to urban townships and industrial sites, even heavily modified versions of tribal social organization were strained to the breaking point. As electoral democracy gradually shifted its international...

  7. 3 Proxy Forces
    (pp. 38-54)

    The coercive powers of the state often appear as tools of last resort, to be deployed only when and where efforts at building consent fail. Like Max Weber, Antonio Gramsci rooted his reflections on political life in precisely this distinction:

    The methodological criterion on which our own study must be based is the following: that the supremacy of a social group manifests itself in two ways, as “domination” and as “intellectual and moral leadership.” A social group dominates antagonistic groups, which it tends to “liquidate,” or to subjugate perhaps even by armed force; it leads kindred and allied groups.¹


  8. 4 Tradition and Modernity in the Fall of Apartheid
    (pp. 55-69)

    The British Colonial Office’s postwar optimism about the end of indirect rule and the development of modern political institutions in Africa was echoed and amplified by the mainstream of professional political scientists across the Atlantic. Studies of transitional states and societies were very much in vogue for American political science departments during the 1950s and 1960s, as was the adoption of a neo-Weberian analytic framework—albeit one carefully expunged of all traces of hesitation about bureaucracy and rationalization. From Weber, American political scientists adopted both the concept of a historical transition from tradition to modernity and the notion of a...

  9. 5 Chiefs in the New South Africa
    (pp. 70-95)

    The early years of the 1990s seemed to represent the high-water mark of a global liberal democratic revolution. Though it was clearly not, as Francis Fukuyama famously proposed, the End of History, the collapse of old regimes and the opening of negotiations between old adversaries lent an air of inevitability to the proceedings. South Africa’s own transition toward a postapartheid future began on February 2, 1990, when President F. W. de Klerk announced in Parliament that the major opposition groups—the ANC, SACP, and PAC—were to be legalized. This was to be the long-delayed step forward, in which Bantu...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 96-102)

    Constitutions often speak loudest in their silences, the most difficult and contentious issues frequently being set aside by constitutional architects for future generations to resolve. The political role of chieftaincy stood as just such an issue for South Africa’s 1996 constitution. An entire section of the document was devoted to the subject of “Traditional Leaders,” yet that section comprised only fifteen lines of text. Echoing the CODESA negotiations and the 1993 interim agreement, the 1996 constitution officially recognized traditional leadership, but offered no specific guidance as to the powers or roles of traditional leaders.¹ The chiefs continued to preside over...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 103-126)
  12. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 127-134)
  13. Index
    (pp. 135-140)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 141-143)