The fire next time? Generations, established/outsider groups and South African universities in crisis.

The fire next time? Generations, established/outsider groups and South African universities in crisis.

Part 3, An Eliasian view of the crisis

Please reference as: Liz Stanley (2017) ‘The fire next time; Part 3, An Eliasian view of the crisis′ and provide the paragraph number as appropriate when quoting.


1. Introduction

Part 3 takes the form of a dialogue between Norbert Elias’s analysis in Studies on the Germans of extreme forms of protest in 1960s West Germany, and the context and circumstances associated with the present crisis in South Africa concerning its universities and student protests. First, an overview of the main components of Elias’s analysis is sketched out. Second, the key points Elias makes about the dynamics at work in the 1960s West German context and more widely regarding generational conflicts –  which is how at basis he understands those conflicts –  are discussed in more detail. Third, similarities and differences with the events surrounding and characterising the universities in crisis in South Africa are considered.

2. ‘Terrorism in the Federal Republic of Germany’, an overview

2.1 Elias’s Studies on the Germans (2013; Collected Works, vol 11; Dublin: University College Dublin Press) is in a literal sense a compendium of articles and other writings largely pieced together by a succession of editors. The editors of the Collected Works edition, Eric Dunning and Stephen Mennell, comment that Elias “had always written copiously, but showed a curious reluctance ever to regard his typescripts as finished and to release them for publication” (xi; all page numbers herein refer to the Collected Works edition); and they discuss the role of its first editor Michael Schröter and their own contribution in piecing together something closer to Elias’s intellectual intentions (xi-xvii). In terms of its analytical content, Studies on the Germans is one of the most substantial of Elias’s writings and contributes significantly to his ideas about the civilising and decivilising process, with an always symbiotic relationship between these.

2.2 The analysis provided in Studies on the Germans has been used in an earlier WWW essay on the light Elias’s work throws on South Africa in respect of changing levels and patterns of violence, particularly murders and killings of different kinds (Part 3). What is drawn on here is his analysis of the post-war experience of violence and terrorism in West Germany. This was initially published in English as a long appendix on ‘Terrorism in the Federal Republic of Germany” in The Germans, while in the Collected Works edition it appears with the same title as Chapter 6, sub-titled ‘expression of a conflict between generations’. It has section headings that also point to generational issues: generational relationships as power relations, clashing ideas about morality, the extended youth of middle class groups, and national pride and de/civilising patterns.

For Elias, this period of unrest, protest and violence provides a key example of what can happens in the wake of war and other major changes, and did so in West Germany but not other European countries, with his interest lying in the whys and wherefores of these differences.

2.3 In Germany, a decivilising process was set in motion in the ‘after’ situation, when some sections of the population came to perceive themselves as disaffected and excluded and, importantly, when they saw the state and governmental system as itself at fault and, as part of this, its monopolisation of legitimate force was challenged. For Elias this is conflict between the generations of a structural kind, with key aspects of outsider and established relations mapping onto and masking generational aspects when the route of the younger generation to political and other positions and goals is inhibited by the dynamic of its relationship with the older established group. He is concerned with “The balance of power and transformations in the relations between the generations. In the last analysis, the structure of these processes on the individual level is determined by the structure of the relationship between the generations in the wider society, whether in a tribe or state” (345). And this structural relationship has wide societal consequence, for “The privileges of older generations include occupying positions that give the holders a monopoly over chances for making decisions and issuing orders at the highest level in matters that concern the whole group. The young are usually excluded from access to positions of command…” (345).

2.4 Elias emphasises, then, that generational conflict of the scale and kind involved in West Germany was a social and structural conflict, not a matter of interiority or personality or interpersonal relationships, with tensions and conflicts arising because “the balance of power and transformations in the relations between the generations [had changed]” (345). What is central to his analysis is that this conflict was a matter of social structures, the I-we relationship, the role of the state, and the interplay of established and outsider groups and their ratios of power. A related point is that the same dynamic occurs in other societies, it is not a specifically German matter, but generally in does not lead to open conflict of extreme kinds, with what occurs elsewhere being “a toned-down form, an analogous development of the struggle between generations” (363). Not surprisingly, much of his analysis focuses on why such things led to open conflict in West Germany and not elsewhere, in the context of the paradox that these conflicts occurred at point when things were changing and when what had been relatively closed channels for change and mobility on the parts of the younger had lessened (347), something which of course he realises generally occurs regarding cataclysmic forms of challenge and conflict (337).

2.5 The extra-party political movements of both violent and non-violent kinds arose in West Germany in the 1960s basically as generational conflicts between younger, upwardly mobile outsiders, particularly those who had been university-level students, and the generation of their parents. In simpler societies there are rites of passage which routinise child/adult transitions, while in complicated socially differentiated industrial societies, the process of becoming adult has no specific institutional framework of transition and takes place in a context in which the period of education, as the closest thing to this, keeps getting longer.  In this context, “A peculiar problem” (376) can occur, with recourse to extreme forms of protest and violence of a kind that is non-legitimate except within the outsider groups themselves (and not always generally so, even then).

2.6 For Elias, this is a resistance against a structural position but it leads to another even more untenable structural position (377), and “since the necessity to abstain from violence within states is one of the fundamental elements of what we call ‘civilised behaviour’, and since civilising processes and state-formation processes are in fact intimately interwoven with each other, terrorist movements represent regressive movements in the context of a civilising process. They have an anti-civilising character” (387).

2.7 This does not mean that Elias is unaware that national states can be repressive, that developments are occurring in the industrialised societies which perpetuate the outsider position of younger cohorts, and that there are times and places where violent protest can be seen as justified. His point is that such protest goes against what the particular society in question overall sees as its civilised trajectory. Consequently his comment is not to be seen as a moral assessment or judgement, but instead the recognition that protest against an established order and a state seen as legitimate runs counter to generally-held perceptions of what is acceptable, and in that sense civilised, conduct.

3. Some specifics of the dynamic at work in West Germany

3.1 In Germany in the 1960s, change had occurred following one and then another world war and the defeat of the Third Reich, giving rise to specific problems for younger generations of the whole society, particularly connected with the political system (331). For these younger generations, the after-effects included the discredited character of all earlier generations, of politics, and of the system itself (332). There were widespread protests and social movements against the government in power, seen as a sell-out and implicated in oppressive activity both at home and abroad, with high profile groups within the protest movements being of a terrorist kind, of which the Red Army Faction is now the best known. For the older generation, their political credentials had been internationally inspected and seen as politically clean in the sense of not being part of the fascist regime, and their concerns were basically those of the liberal democracies in the rest of Europe. For younger generations, there was a broad sense of disillusionment and, alongside this, feelings of closure and constraint were intensified because of factors increasing the gulf between the world-views involved.

In particular, members of the older generation were staying in power for longer, and members of the younger generation were remaining in education for longer, with a resultant decrease in mobility across the system, including in political parties and administrative positions as well as other professional occupations.

3.2 These factors were experienced in all the more highly developed industrial societies, together with increasing secularisation so that people looked for meaning outside of religion, and increasing prosperity even for the poor so that people had rising expectations, together with a widespread perception that the social order was itself the cause of the perceived malaise (342). In West Germany, these things led to different outcomes not because Germany is exceptional, but that things are always specific to particular societies and their histories.

3.3 In West Germany, the older group had a widely accepted political agenda and did not feel responsible for the problems inherited, while the younger generation saw their elders as directly or indirectly responsible both for the fascist period and for post-war problems. When the anticipated ‘new Germany’ did not come about, “when for this younger generation too, the great hope began to shatter, the dynamics of protest led to an intensification of violence in the collision between rebellious groups and the representatives of the state monopoly of force…” (358). This then gave rise to a spiralling dynamic, for “once the bonds are broken which… normally restrict the arbitrary use of physical violence as a means of settling conflicts, then the fire continues to smoulder and the fear of returning to the rule of violence more easily drives the opponents, too, to use violence as a preventative measure or in retaliation” (360).

3.4 But “justice cannot quite be done to this process if it is understood merely as a specific German event” (363); and what set the process in motion there was that the generations did not share political and other ideals, indeed had clashing ones. This is discussed first around national patterns in how the I-we relationship was seen, the older generation positioning themselves in terms of the general good and the younger in terms of liberal ideals of self-achievement and mobility, although often couched in socialist terms. Elias also discusses the younger generation seeing themselves as fighting against the self-centredness of established groups and bringing about a more humane and less oppressive kind of society by whatever means became justified within-group (365). This included for some that society can only be changed through violence, seen as less objectionable and more justified than that exerted by the society as its normal functioning (368).

3.5 Alongside this, established groups “have in a sense made a pact with the imperfections of the human world. They have grown accustomed to compromise with evil. They know about the half-measures of social life, the constant compromises with people’s greed and self-interest. They know that nothing in human communal life is done as it actually should be done…” (369). The younger generation sees such things in an uncomprehending and uncompromising way as the fault and sell-out of the established group. And in addition, while many take it for granted that the acquisition of patterns of behaviour and feelings of older generations is appropriate for the younger, and problems in accepting this are individual ones, this fails to comprehend the structural character of generational conflicts, and that younger generations may not aspire to the ideals of the older one.

3.6 The basic problem Elias identifies is the near-complete monopoly of higher positions in society and the contraction of routes for social mobility: “The privileges of older generations include occupying positions that give the holders a monopoly over chances for making decisions and issuing orders at the highest level in matters that concern the whole group. The young are usually excluded from access to positions of command. The reason often given for excluding them is the need for quite a long period of preparation and learning…  Equally variable is the length of time during which particular older generations retain the occupancy of decision-making positions in the society…” (345). In general, in periods of war and similar disruptions, channels for mobility open up; and in periods of stability and peace they slow down; compounded by structural developments in all industrial societies regarding the extension of both the period of education and the occupation of many professional positions. And here, Elias comments that the social processes involved are not predominantly a matter of the established group enforcing this, but rather that “the social process of narrowing and widening – the closure and opening of career channels and the corresponding life chances and chances for meaning for the rising cohort – are unplanned processes” (348-9).

3.7 It is those who were most likely to become most upwardly mobile who are most affected by such changes, even though they may be engaging in the kind of activity that earlier brought such things within reach. The likelihood of conflict therefore increases, and such changes and their consequences are also likely to play out in a political arena as well as others, because ruling positions and higher administrative positions are also connected with political processes (government, party membership, local and national politics). So the widening and narrowing of channels for mobility and change occurs within the apparatus of the state as well as elsewhere (350).

3.8 As Elias points out, to an important extent these matters are class-specific, or rather they are pronounced regarding university educated middle-class groups. Members of these groups are in preparation for future professional careers until sometimes into their 30s, and because of the way educational opportunities and qualifications have increased there is an extended and still increasing period when they are between being children and being proper adults. There is also a corresponding extended older-age for those in professional groups, with many people retaining occupational and political positions into older age (375). This is very different from the structuring of society at early stages in social development, as in previous societies where, for instance, the peak age of the warrior caste was 18 to 25 (375).

3.9 The progeny of the middle and other classes who went to university continue afterwards to live on a kind of island of younger people. They are more or less independent of their parents, still outside the realm of adult occupational controls and constraints, and associate largely with members of their own age group and class cohort (378). With a relative freedom from the constraints of occupational and related positions, the constraints they do have differ considerably from those imposed by “office work in constant, direct reach of superiors and colleagues”; they are in what Elias calls “a peculiar state of suspension, a state of expectation” (380).

3.10 In a university context, one of the specific constraints prevailing is that students are expected to engage in the kind of knowledge pursuits which require considerable self-constraint, not just external ones. The transition is a hard one, because teachers concern themselves with whether their pupils work or not, while universities see this as their students’ own responsibility (381-2). This is compounded because self-constraint and self-discipline are required to succeed at a high level, and the professions ranking high in prestige also require the same characteristics. There is therefore, alongside the autonomous value of university education in its own right, and an inbuilt likelihood of conflicts between older established and younger outsider generations, for their relationship involves “mutual, but unequal and highly complex, dependences” (382). Elias spells out what is involved here around resources and opportunities, including that members of the older generations in a very direct way exert a kind of monopoly over students’ chances of obtaining not only knowledge but also the accreditation of high performance, with this being the route to highly valued professional positions.

3.11 As in his other work, Elias sees matters of personality, the individual and the I-we relationship as the product of society-level structures and processes, including the character of the national state over its long-term development. In this discussion, Elias is particularly interested in how such things are shaped around how the different generations in West Germany see their place in the national society. The we-image in most societies is an integral aspect both of individual identity and of someone belonging to a commonality. Many European and other societies experienced a post-war loss of status, but this played out differently regarding the relationship between their older and younger generations. In other countries, the sense of belonging was not greatly affected by their country’s changed position in the world (384-5). It was for those in West Germany.

3.12 Many of the people involved in violent protest in West Germany had been brought up around a taboo on using violence and it had to be something extraordinary that led them to break away from this, which Elias suggests was “…The feeling of living in an unbearably oppressive and unfree society which must be destroyed in order to allow people a free and just existence” (336).  The first generation of terrorists were sincere in this conviction of the unjust nature of the society they lived in, although with the deep irony that they were willing to engage in extreme violence to further this goal, for “Murder, arson and robbery as vehicles for achieving political goals mean breaching of the state monopoly of physical force, the maintenance of which guarantees that people within a state can live together relatively peacefully and free of violence” (386).

In the absence of severe crisis, such feelings are not usually expressed in terms of violence because the groups concerned are not able to engage in effective political action concerning their goals. It is crisis that almost always triggers the overt expression of conflict and Elias identifies such a crisis regarding the Weimar Republic and the move of fascist groups against it (355-6).

3.13 By contrast, the Bonn Republic was widely supported, but with a feeling of deep disaffection and alienation on the part of younger groups. In Elias’s analysis, this turned on the gulf between the political views of younger and older generations and the accompanying disavowal by the older groups of guilt or responsibility for contemporary problems and also the earlier fascist regime, giving rise to suspicion that present political actions could result in the restoration of an authoritarian or totalitarian state. And, once violence is engaged in and no matter which side of a conflict initiates it, “once the bonds are broken which…  normally restrict the arbitrary use of physical violence as a means of settling conflicts, then the fire continues to smoulder…  the opponents, too …use violence as a preventative measure or in retaliation” (360).

3.14 The sense of entitlement among the radical young in West Germany was related in part to social and educational position and in part to the fact they were of an age where previous generations had played a major role in social decision-making. This was combined with a political analysis of deep problems with the social order and adoption of a Marxist creed that seemed to provide a cover-all explanation and plan for action, but actually concerned one dimension of prevailing inequalities: “The religious zeal, the effective involvement with which the young middle-class leadership groups of the extra-parliamentary movement of the 1960s and the conspiratorial terrorists in the 1970s stood up for their society-transforming goals…  cannot quite be understood as long as this meaning-bestowing function of the battle for one’s own political ideals is not simultaneously taken into account” (354). This also and relatedly led to some kinds of people being seen as heroic and the justification of violence against others who were not and the state system they were part of – a special virtue was accorded to some groups and persons and their ideals, and particularly that achieving freedom and justice was paramount and outweighed any reservations about using violence (364).

3.15 Regarding the political terrorism of the 1960s in West Germany, Elias’s account suggests something less like a trigger and more akin to a slow-burn leading to its occurrence. The crisis was one perceived by groups within the radical younger generation with the state, rather than specific political and economic events triggering challenges from them. What he proposes was central in the move to violent challenge was the political aspect: “There was no shortage of attacks aimed at opening up previously constricted or closed career channels…  But the struggle against the older political establishments had a more central meaning” (352). This was not least because so many professional positions were associated with parliamentary and other political organisation, and “It was the pressure of the party establishments that the younger generations opposed through the organisation of an extra-parliamentary opposition, which was thus at the same time also external to the opposition operating in the existing party organisations” (352).

3.16 A conclusion to draw regarding this particular aspect is that associating challenges to the state and its monopolisation of force with specific high-profile events is mistaken. This is because doing so short-circuits analysis of the underpinning social structural factors which interconnect individual and group action and systemic issues.

What of South African universities in crisis? The structure of the relationship

Reading Elias’s essay on the structural factors underpinning the emergence of radical groups and violent protests in 1960s West Germany with the counterpoint of thinking in detail about present events in the South African universities and politics is somewhat unnerving, because many of the points he makes have resonance for South African now. Resonance – but not a direct echo, because South Africa has its own particular history and present-day politics and important and consequential differences as well as similarities exist. In working through these points, information and ideas are drawn on that were provided in Part 1 and Part 2 of this ‘Thinking with Elias’ essay, particularly Part 1, need to be read in association with the discussion here.

3.17 It is notable that, for some of the student protesters, the 1994 political transition and political life after it has come under critical scrutiny and more strongly that both are seen as discredited. The transition that was negotiated is seen as a sell-out to ‘white monopoly capital’ and to white interests more generally, the recent failures in the political system and economy are seen as the product of neo-liberalism put into practice by a bunch of Uncle Toms, and the political credentials of the older generation regarding social change are seen as shaky or non-existent. The older cohort now holding the reins of power both politically and in other positions is viewed as directly responsible for the ‘new South Africa’ not coming into existence. While these views have circulated widely, they are probably accepted by just small though significant minorities among the protesters, and what is more generally the case is a radical change in expectations and ideas about justice and what is due as held by members of the protest groups.

3.18 The large size of student movements is indicative of massive changes in educational provision in South Africa since 1994. There has been the establishment and extension of school education across the board and the expectation of higher education for many, albeit in a context in which many of the financial and other issues surrounding school provision have not been solved and there are marked inequalities and differences in performance across the system. However, many more people reach the formal required level for entrance to higher education. South Africa has also experienced major increases in its university student numbers, particularly among the black/African majority population, rectifying earlier imbalances in the demographics of student intake.

3.19 The transition from school to university can be extremely difficult for many, because the student body arrives with very different levels of real performance, because while most are funded this does not cover all needs and in a situation where home community supports are absent, because the expectation is of self-discipline and self-propelled learning but many people have not learned these skills in the school system, because the prevailing standards of performance are very different from school, because university campuses tends to be multi-racial and multi-ethnic in a way that people’s home communities are not, and because the university ethos of freedom of debate and expression advanced peaceably takes for granted that students have already learned and accepted these values.

3.20 With whatever difficulties and problems, the same structural changes have occurred as in other industrialised societies, with younger age groups remaining in a ‘state of suspension’ in educational settings for longer. The mushrooming of a university student cohort with the rising expectations especially on the part of black/African contingent, with the majority of students of all ethnicities and skin colours living in what Elias memorably called islands populated almost completely by their own kind, occurs alongside the near-monopoly of higher positions by older groups. And an important additional factor here is that Black Economic Empowerment jobs have been relatively recently occupied and are now drying up, creating a backlog among the rising age cohort.

3.21 All these things create problems for a particular section of the younger generation. The majority of younger people either enter the labour market in its rural or urban aspects or do not have jobs. It is a significant and growing minority that enter higher education, and do so with the expectation of high performance as a route to professional occupations, having been the highest performers within the school system.

3.22 The student young living on a university island see themselves as under-privileged, although many may be seen by members of their home communities as highly privileged, and in a situation with few imposed controls and constraints and the expectation that high performance will follow self-discipline and self-constraint. However, the transition from being teacher-led as pupils to being self-led as independent students has generally failed to catch up with the fact that perhaps the majority have not been encouraged to develop these skills, with knock-on effects regarding performance and completions, and with consequences in turn for achieving high ranking professional positions.

3.23 Presently young South Africans of university age and the cohort above them have grown up in circumstances in which violence has been endemic. This includes the routinisation of unpredictable extreme and often unacknowledged forms of state violence in the earlier political dispensation, near civil war between the state and black movements, near civil war between ANC and Inkata in some areas of the country, the routinisation of violence in many local communities, including sexual violence and violence against property but also of the violent crimes against persons. This is not to suggest the student body is in any way inherently violent, but rather that the occurrence of violence of different kinds is not an exceptional feature of social life and for at least some it will have been a familiar means of people and communities known to them, if not them themselves, surviving and getting on.

3.24 These younger groups have also lived through a period of transition with high expectations of change in the direction of equality and justice, changes which may have been partially met, but which are seen as ineffective or incomplete or being actively prevented. These feelings also include the sense of truncated entitlement referred to earlier, both regarding the university system and society more generally, and including economic as well as political transformation.

3.25 Structural issues within the economy in meeting their expectations are compounded by developments within the political system, with the rise of the Guptas and state capture, the witch-hunt against Pravin Gordhan when Minister of Finance and the resurgence of political assassinations at the local level being among the many things indicative. Alongside the decreases in economic opportunities generally, politics as also providing a thwarted route to professional positions of both administrative and political kinds is also part of the pattern.

3.26 Universities in South Africa are experiencing crisis-level difficulties in addition to student protests in three broad areas of their functioning. The universities are public universities and there has been a significantly reduced level of government funding coupled with greatly increased student intake and major expansion of the university population overall, politically-decided targets to meet regarding demographics in job appointments in a context where the highest performers have gone into lucrative professional positions, and politically-provided changes to university governance to permit political, business and other interests to play a part at Council level.

3.27 As noted in the earlier blogs, fee levels are formally set by universities themselves, with fee income having become an increasingly important factor in their finances. Proposed increases in fees were one trigger for the outbreaks of student protests, in a situation where is the universities were often depicted as part of the state apparatus and ‘soft targets’ for those groups wanting to challenge and either change or overturn the state or the government. The idea here has been that if the university system failed in the sense of being unable to function, then the government responsible for ensuring its activities would also fail. ‘If… then…’ arguments are notoriously weak ones which rely entirely on speculation and supposition, but for some this seemed a cogent strategy.

3.28 There have been other more achievable strands to protest movement critiques and demands. Race aspects of the protests have been background for some and foreground for others but have received much attention in relation to ideas about ‘the African university’ and broadly African Renaissance thinking and for some a black nationalism agenda. Not surprisingly, ideas about colonialism and imperialism have come to the fore along with scrutinising the often very traditional curricula of degree courses. The demand regarding insourcing the contracts of service worker appears as something of an outlier, and reflects Marxist and socialist influences as well as being related to occupations in the home backgrounds of many students, although it has also been seen as a cynical strategy to show that the protests are not just about ‘me-ism’.

Much of this has been broadly accepted and for some welcomed among university teaching staff and administrators. At the same time, a feature of the negotiations between student protesters and senior administrators that has been noted is that the protest movements are in many respects leaderless, or rather leadership is emergent, local and can change rapidly. A result is that the demands and requirements from the protesters also change, and reaching workable decisions and solutions has been seen as near impossible in spite of broad goodwill from the university side.

3.29 As the above discussion will have conveyed, there are some importance resonances between the crisis in South Africa and Elias’s analysis of the 1960s political protests and terrorism in West Germany. The first and most obvious concerns structural features of the relationship between younger and older generations, the narrowing of opportunities for mobility, and the elongation of education necessary for professional occupations and of occupancy of these positions on the part of older groups, all of which exist in very similar forms in the South African situation. The second is that a widespread feeling exists, not just among student protesters but in the general population, of disaffection with the political system and that earlier high political hopes are now marked by corruption, veniality and frequent violence, a situation which in the last few years has become almost normative.

3.30 A key question to ask here is to what extent the dissatisfaction of the student protesters, and the disaffection of the general voting public, coincide. The third is a more specific disillusionment within some of the student groups that the 1994 transition agreement and its results now twenty years on were a sell-out and benefits only ‘white monopoly capital’, its client groups of primarily ANC politicians, and white groups more generally, seeing the older generation as directly responsible for this.

3.31 There are also important differences, things that are significantly different in the South African context. Firstly and most importantly, its student protest groups have been of a variety of kinds, and none of them have yet been terrorist groups in their actions, with this a sharp difference with both of Elias’s examples, concerning the Weimar and the Bonn Republics. These groups have rapidly dissolved and reformed as temporary and largely local working coalitions, encompassing different shades of opinions and kinds of political action within them, with the more extreme rather than the others being most represented in the mass media.

3.32 Secondly, while there are clearly generational aspects of a structural kind very similar to those discussed by Elias, he too readily subsumes other factors as ‘really’ generational ones. This thereby brackets out what seems fairly clearly in the South African situation a more discernible sense of clashes between outsider groups and the established concerning how the apparatus of power is maintained, used and challenged, with the universities in a sense a soft target proxy for this. The third is that in South Africa th yeahe universities themselves have become the focus for protests, whereas in 1960s West Germany it was in a sense more important targets that were focused on. For the student protesters and those they negotiated with in South Africa, ‘internal’ university matters regarding fees, the leftovers of what was treated (often incorrectly) as colonialism, race issues and inequalities including the insourcing of service work contracts, and the curriculum and Africanist thinking, all came under scrutiny and were by and large changed (or entered the process of changing). However, this did not prevent or inhibit the continuation of violent protests apparently carried out to further such goals.

3.33 And finally, perhaps ironically given the disillusionment with the political system, the ANC government in particular through its Minister of Education and its President has also responded to the universities in negative ways. The university sector is variously positioned as a necessary mechanism in achieving widespread change, as producing what President Zuma has pejoratively called ‘clever blacks’ who depart from tradition and criticise the powers that be, and as in need of Africanisation and becoming teaching-centred to achieve the change project through being more skill-based. The bottom-line is that its funding has been significantly reduced while its student numbers have been greatly increased, so needing to increase fees, one of the key triggering factors in the crisis these blogs have discussed.

4. And now…

Part 4 continues the discussion with a case study of earlier student protests, which occurred across a number of years but particularly significantly in 1920 and 1946. Part 5 then draws the discussion to a conclusion by making some comparisons between the earlier protests and those occurring in 2015 and 2016.


Last updated: 21 December 2017