Volume 16, 2000
Race, Social Identity, and Human Dignity
Affirmative Action in Post-Apartheid South Africa
A Liberal Dilemma
In order to dismantle the racial and social hierarchy that is the legacy of apartheid, South Africa has followed the lead of Western liberal democracies and
appropriated the discourse of affirmative action. This paper argues that current affirmative action policy fails in significant ways because it paradoxically ignores the concrete social and historical conditions of race and racism in South Africa and simply aims to normalize competition among abstract individuals by using a principle of racial neutrality The author argues that social justice will only be achieved in South Africa in a context of deliberative democracy, where effective affirmative action aims at social cooperation, full participation of non-whites in decision-making, and the elimination of race as a relevant social category.