Racial violence and state intervention in the South African economy

Ivan Evans

in Cultures of Violence

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780719079047
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702208 | DOI:
Racial violence and state intervention in the South African economy

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In the aftermath of the Anglo-Boer War, whites in South Africa pursued two strategies that distinguished state formation from the path followed in the USA: they constructed a centralized state, and authorized state officials to intervene extensively into the economy. In response to mounting pressure from employers and white workers, successive governments from 1910 onwards embarked on a campaign to modernize and boost the interventionist powers of the state. They did this chiefly by empowering the state to control the turbulent industrial arena and the field known as ‘Native Affairs’, both of which were still ambiguous and uncertain in the decade after 1910. The combined drift of these trends reinforced a state-oriented perspective within the white population generally. In South Africa, all roads led to the central state. Employers turned to the state to administer a labour-allocation system sufficiently flexible to meet their competing labour demands; white workers pressured the state to actively eliminate the ‘poor white problem’; and the segregationist state garnered greater powers for itself to modernize and strengthen the racial order. The early consolidation of a broadly statist ideology and the establishment of an interventionist state are central to the differentiae specificae of racial violence in South Africa: the absence of communal violence amidst high levels of private violence against blacks.

Keywords: South Africa; state formation; centralized state; whites; segregation; racial violence

Chapter.  16672 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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