NEWSLETTER ISSUE #6/2018
Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism - unpacking the role of business in South Africa
A new book hit the bookshelves earlier this year, penned by well-known economist, Prof Raymond Parsons from the NWU Business School, together with Ali Parry from TRADE. Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism: The Role of Business in South Africa takes readers on a journey that spans several decades while also traversing some relatively uncharted territory – i.e. what business did (and did not do) to rid South Africa of the scourge of apartheid and clear the way for a new era post-1994.
A central theme in the book is the tension that exists between business and the state and why capitalism has as many detractors as it has admirers. The contradictions surrounding capitalism have complicated the policymaking process in South Africa and other countries with deeply divided economies. Trevor Manuel, the guest speaker at the Johannesburg launch of Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism on 29 May 2018, emphasised these contradictions when he said:
‘Capitalism has given us wealth beyond measure, but it has taken away the chief benefit of wealth, and that is the concept of having enough’.
He added that, irrespective of people’s specific views on the merits or evils of capitalism, the book stimulates necessary debate about ‘who we are, what we must do and what the solution is for South Africa’.
One of the factors holding back South Africa’s economic recovery is the fact that the influence of the private sector in economic policymaking and planning has been waning over the years. Furthermore, the organised business sector has become increasingly fragmented and unable to be a collective ‘voice’ for business with a common mandate to hold public and private sector institutions to account. Accountability is one of the cornerstones of a robust democracy; without it, even the most well-crafted economic policies and plans are unlikely to bear fruit. It will be interesting to see if President Ramaphosa’s promised ‘new dawn’ will result in the country being brought back from the brink and accountability becoming popular once more.
Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism: The Role of Business in South Africa is published by Jacana Media and is available for purchase from Exclusive Books, Loot (online order) and Van Schaik Bookstore (Potchefstroom).
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