Introduction: A Battle of Ideas

  • Heidi Brooks
Part of the The Theories, Concepts and Practices of Democracy book series (PSTCD)


The introductory chapter situates the failure of participatory democracy in South Africa within the broader development of democratic thought in the ruling ANC. It introduces the book’s concern to connect weaknesses in the practice of participatory democracy to the ideas which underpin it. In justifying a focus on contemporary participatory policy as part of a broader trajectory of ideas, it advocates not only an analysis of the theory informing existing practice, but a need to link the challenges facing democratic consolidation in South Africa to the intellectual and ideological heritage of its former liberation movement. The chapter highlights the significance of 1980s ‘people’s power’ for the framework of democracy that emerged, as well as drawing out the connection between the dominant discourse of democracy in South Africa and the ANC’s identity as a mass movement. It also engages with key theoretical debates on participatory democracy as a normative democratic model, providing the required framework to examine its development in ANC thinking. Finally, it provides a summary of the book’s overall structure, laying the contextual and theoretical foundations for examining what has been a battle of ideas in the ANC for a dominant discourse of participatory democracy.


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heidi Brooks
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Political and International StudiesIIE MSAJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.Centre for Social ChangeUniversity of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa

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