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In a much-discussed passage in the introduction to the Grundrisse, Marx argues that ‘the concrete is concrete because it is the concentration of many determinations, hence unity of the diverse. It appears in the process of thinking, therefore, as a process of concentration, as a result, not a point of departure’. This chapter discusses how this conception has informed fieldwork on class relations in rural South Africa, where households combine a multiplicity of income sources, including local and migrant wage labour, self-employment in petty commodity production (both agricultural and nonagricultural) and welfare payments by the state. In these contexts, class differentiation is constituted through complex relations and processes, involving many social forms, including income stratification, diversified livelihood strategies and social difference along lines of race, gender and generation. Households often combine a variety of class locations that also shift over time. Here, ‘class’ cannot simply be read off from indicators such as incomes, assets or employment status. A key focus is social relations, including relations between employers and employees, property owners and land users, migrants and households, men, women and youth, as well as between interest groups and the state. Data collection and analysis are mediated by key concepts and theories drawn from Marx, such as the production and appropriation of surplus value, accumulation and social reproduction. The chapter describes how this approach – in fact compatible with critical realism – informed research in four different fieldwork projects undertaken in South Africa and briefly reports their findings. It also discusses the challenges posed in attempting to move from simple abstractions to an adequate account of the concentrated complexities of class relations, which increasingly involve the ‘fragmentation’ of class identities.
In this chapter we describe the application of Marxist concepts and methods to investigate complex class relations in contemporary rural South Africa. This includes drawing upon both classical Marxist analyses of the agrarian question and subsequent scholarship on processes of agrarian change to investigate ongoing capitalist transformations of the countryside.
During puberty young people undergo significant hormonal changes which affect metabolism and, subsequently, health. Evidence suggests there is a period of transient pubertal insulin resistance, with this effect greater in girls than boys. However, the response to everyday high and low glycaemic index (GI) meals remains unknown. Following ethical approval, forty adolescents consumed a high GI or low GI breakfast, in a randomised cross-over design. Capillary blood samples were taken during a 2-h postprandial period, examining the glycaemic and insulinaemic responses. Maturity offset and homoeostatic model assessment (HOMA) were also calculated. The glycaemic response to the breakfasts was similar between boys and girls, as shown by similar peak blood glucose concentrations and incremental AUC (IAUC) following both high and low GI breakfasts (all P>0·05). Girls exhibited a higher peak plasma insulin concentration 30 min post-breakfast following both high GI (P=0·043, g=0·69) and low GI (P=0·010, g=0·84) breakfasts, as well as a greater IAUC following high GI (P=0·041, g=0·66) and low GI (P=0·041, g=0·66) breakfasts. HOMA was positively correlated with the insulinaemic responses (all P<0·0005) and maturity offset (P=0·037). The findings of the present study suggest that pubertal insulin resistance affects the postprandial insulinaemic responses to both high and low GI meals. Specifically, girls exhibit a greater insulinaemic response than boys to both meals, despite similar glycaemic responses. This study is the first to report the glycaemic and insulinaemic responses to everyday meals in boys and girls, supporting the recommendation for young people to base their diet on low GI carbohydrates.
The mean air temperature of the Icelandic interior is below 10 °C. However, we have previously observed 16S rDNA sequences associated with thermophilic lineages in Icelandic basalts. Measurements of the temperatures of igneous rocks in Iceland showed that solar insolation of these low albedo substrates achieved a peak surface temperature of 44.5 °C. We isolated seven thermophilic Geobacillus species from basalt with optimal growth temperatures of ~65 °C. The minimum growth temperature of these organisms was ~36 °C, suggesting that they could be active in the rock environment. Basalt dissolution rates at 40 °C were increased in the presence of one of the isolates compared to abiotic controls, showing its potential to be involved in active biogeochemistry at environmental temperatures. These data raise the possibility of transient active thermophilic growth in macroclimatically cold rocky environments, implying that the biogeographical distribution of active thermophiles might be greater than previously understood. These data show that temperatures measured or predicted over large scales on a planet are not in themselves adequate to assess niches available to extremophiles at micron scales.
The embrace of socio-economic rights in South Africa has featured prominently in scholarship on constitution making, legal jurisprudence and social mobilisation. But the development has attracted critics who claim that this turn to rights has not generated social transformation in practice. This book sets out to assess one part of the puzzle and asks what has been the role and impact of socio-economic strategies used by civil society actors. Focusing on a range of socio-economic rights and national trends in law and political economy, the book's authors show how socio-economic rights have influenced the development of civil society discourse and action. The evidence suggests that some strategies have achieved material and political impact but this is conditional on the nature of the claim, degree of mobilisation and alliance building, and underlying constraints.
Restructuring of the rural economy has been somewhat on the margins of political and policy debate in post-apartheid South Africa, but recently this has begun to change. A wide-ranging resolution adopted by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) at its watershed Polokwane conference in 2007 asserted the vital importance of land and agrarian reform for the reduction of rural poverty. Land reform and rural development were identified as priorities by the Zuma government after the 2009 election.
This chapter traces the evolution of post-apartheid policies on land and agrarian reform in South Africa, with a particular focus on land redistribution and agricultural production. It examines the influence of different interest groups on emerging policies, and assesses the impact of these policies to date. The chapter argues that the fundamental flaw in post-apartheid rural reform policies has been the failure to couple land and agricultural reform in a coherent and effective manner, with the latter hamstrung by policymakers’ uncritical acceptance of the superiority of large-scale commercial farming and scepticism about the ‘commercial viability’ of small-scale systems of production. The state has thus attempted to implement land reform without engaging in meaningful agrarian reform, thus severely constraining its impact on rural poverty and inequality.
Policy processes in the transition to democracy
The period of multiparty negotiations between 1990 and 1994 saw a number of shifts taking place in the South African political landscape which influenced the stances of different political groupings in relation to land and agriculture. The ANC had not seen rural areas as a priority for many years (Dolny 2001: 33; Levin and Weiner 1996: 97–98, 107), and in 1990 the party brought few concrete proposals for rural reform to the negotiating table. The Freedom Charter of 1955 had stated that ‘the land shall be shared by those who work it. Restrictions of land ownership on a racial basis shall be ended, and all the land re-divided among those who work it, to banish famine and land hunger. The state shall help the peasants with implements, seeds, tractors and dams’ (ANC 1955). Although imprecise, the Charter clearly envisioned radical transformations in both the nature of property land rights and their distribution, perhaps even implying nationalisation of land.