State, Civil Society, and the Limits of NGO Institutionalization in South Africa

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While some civil society organizations (CSOs) initially embraced the state in post-apartheid South Africa, many became increasingly disappointed with the state’s incapacity to effect meaningful and long-lasting social change. This has resulted in a range of new CSO activity, including semi-autonomous non-governmental organizations, numerous basic needs organizations, and broad based social movements. Through in-depth interviews and participant observation, this article examines one CSO as a case study to highlight the emerging fractures in South Africa’s state–civil society configuration. Findings in this article suggest that some CSOs have successfully disengaged with the South African state due to its inefficient and corrupt funding practices, incapacity for effective leadership, and outright hostility towards CSOs. However, these data also indicate that problematic state–civil society relations may weaken South African CSOs’ potential to operate effectively or develop social movements which challenge the state.



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