By Anthony Butler
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Extra info for Democracy and Apartheid: Political Theory, Comparative Politics and the Modern South African State
8 Nevertheless, this focus on the politics of resistance has been bolstered by two further developments in the fashionable styles of historiography. While these have swept across the Anglophone historical academy, they are of particular importance to South African history: the move towards 'social history', and the introduction of gender as an analytic category. Social historians everywhere have sought to give voice to the oppressed, and to uncover the texture of everyday life, rather than merely to relay the activities of the powerful.
Cape liberals had advanced a very similar understanding of a relationship between a collectivity and the process of self-determination. As I shall argue later, moreover, the idea that distinctive political rights should be allocated in accordance with pre-existing territorial affiliation is a mainstay of European liberal democratic thought. The champions of democracy, and notably its idealist proponents, have always advanced democracy as the ideal political form for a political community; its properties as the creator or destroyer of political communities have been less carefully explored, in part because it has grown and spread from areas of the globe in which nation-states (or state nations) have been the characteristic political form of the state.
The official ethnic divisions of 1960s South Africa had plainly been defined, and to a great extent shaped, by European academics and missionaries who in earlier decades codified, recorded and disseminated tribal languages, cultures and national histories. Yet, at the same time, academic analysts were aware that ethnic self-understandings could not be imposed on an unwilling population and must therefore gain some purchase in existing affiliation or interest. In consequence, there have been broadly three ways of understanding tribalism and its importance: an essentialist view, an instrumentalist view and a historical-constructivist position.
Democracy and Apartheid: Political Theory, Comparative Politics and the Modern South African State by Anthony Butler