ANTH102 Weekly Response Paper Week 12: Development Part 2 Instructions: Submit a 1-page response to the question(s) posed below. Your response should be typed, double-spaced, using Times New Roman font with 1-inch margins vertically and horizontally. Proofread your paper for grammar and spelling. Deadline: Monday, November 9, 2020 at 11:59pm EST Questions: What are some of the ways indigenous peoples and women are redefining development? Contemplate this from multiple angles, i.e. international development, sustainable development, etc. Include a question at the end of your response (this question must be alone in a second page and not included in the 1-page assignment); this question can stem from the Chapter Reading or the PowerPoint lecture (I am attaching both things for you). Do not repeat the question from the assignment.South African Review of Sociology
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Investing in discourses of poverty and
development: How white wealthy South Africans
mobilise meaning to maintain privilege
Kim Wale & Don Foster
To cite this article: Kim Wale & Don Foster (2007) Investing in discourses of poverty and
development: How white wealthy South Africans mobilise meaning to maintain privilege, South
African Review of Sociology, 38:1, 45-69, DOI: 10.1080/21528586.2007.10419166
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South African Review of Sociology 2007, 38( I)
Investing in discourses of poverty and development:
how white wealthy South Africans mobilise
meaning to maintain privilege
Kim Wale
Department of Sociology, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701
Don Foster
Department of Psychology, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch
Twelve years after the transition from apartheid to democracy, South Africa
remains a severely unequal society. On the one side of the divide are relatively
prosperous white South Africans and an increasing black middle and upper
class; and on the other side are harshly poor black South Africans. Despite
decreasing interracial inequality, many white South Africans remain in a highly
privileged position at the intersection of continued race and class systems of
privilege. Research on whiteness in South Africa indicates that inequality is
actively maintained by the discourses mobilised by white South Africans. This
study was interested in furthering such research. A discourse analysis was
applied to ten in-depth, semi-structured interviews with white, wealthy South
Africans, to identify the ways in which meaning was being constructed around
issues of poverty and development. j.B. Thompson’s (1984) framework was
applied to these discourses, to identify whether they were operating ideologically (to maintain unequal relations of race and class domination). Findings
indicate that participants were mobilising discourses that function to maintain
a system of race and class privilege. These findings have implications for the
future focus of development strategy in South Africa.
Key Words: whiteness, privilege, ideological discourse, racism, classism.
1 Introduction
Despite the transition from apartheid to democracy, South Africa continues to be a relentlessly unequal society. There has been a significant shift from the rigid racial inequality of
the past to an increasing intra-racial and class based inequality. This has resulted from the
new black elite joining the old white elite to produce a racially mixed middle class (Crankshaw, 1997; Seekings & Nattrass, 2005; Terreblanche, 2002). However, the majority of
the poor in South Africa continue to be black, and the wealthy, white elite continue to
represent a significant resistant force to distribution along more egalitarian lines (Terreblanche, 2002).
The history of apartheid in South Africa involved the constant construction of institutionalised systems and structures that functioned to privilege white South Africans over
South African Review o(SocioJogy 2007, 38( I)
black South Africans (Fredrickson, 1981). Apartheid may have ended and the lines
between race and class inequality are blurring; however, the legacy of apartheid remains.
This is the legacy of a system that continues to privilege wealthy, white South Africans in
coalition with the new black elite, at the expense of a majority, severely poor and powerless black South African population (Terreblanche, 2002).
Development Studies constitutes the theoretical and practical field that concerns itself
with reducing inequality and poverty (Sachs, 1992). Studies into the field of development
have shown that there is a tendency for development theory and practice to focus on the
deficiencies of the poor and underdeveloped (Goudge; 2003; Rahnema, 1992; Yapa,
1998). In South Africa, this translates into a focus on the deficiencies of the majority, African, poor population.
In contrast to the focus of development theory and practice, studies into whiteness
have indicated that prosperous white South Africans playa significant role in maintaining
the inequality in South Africa (Ansell, 2004; Ballard, 2004; Salusbury, 2003; Salusbury &
Foster, 2004; Steyn, 200 I, 2002, 2003, 2005). This group continues to occupy the centre
of the intersection between race and class privilege, and has a vested interest in maintaining that position at all costs. In light of this research into whiteness, development theory
and practice appears to be ignoring a significant force of resistance to their efforts.
The purpose of this research was to identify the ways in which this ‘old elite’ group of
white wealthy South Africans invests in discourses of poverty and development in ways
that function to legitimise and perpetuate their privileged position. Findings indicate six
popular discourses mobilised by wealthy white South Africans when talking about poverty
and development: ‘denial’; ‘just world’; ‘the undeserving ANC’; ‘business over politics’;
‘the good white Samaritan’ and ‘reverse racism vs. non racialism’. These discourses are
further arranged into three discursive strategies: ‘defending white privilege’, ‘de-Iegitimising black power’ and ‘championing individualism’.
1.1 The history of inequality in South Africa
The inequality existing in post-apartheid South Africa consists of a complex, changing and
historically contingent relationship between systems of race and class privilege. Throughout the periods of colonialism and apartheid, the dominant white powers mobilised their
political, economic, military and ideological hegemony to systematically advantage white
South Africans, while at the same time creating a highly exploitable black work force (Terreblanche, 2002). During the apa”rtheid regime, racial prejudice was worked into the laws
that resulted in a system that privileged whites (Fredrickson, 1981). Whites did not have
to think prejudiced thoughts to experience their privilege, as it was part of a larger system
that advantaged them. Foster (1991) points out that at various stages in South Africa’s history the ideologies of racism and classism have been closely intertwined in ways that have
contributed to white domination. Other writers have also noted the tendency of these
two systems of race and class privilege to intersect and support each other (Miles, 1989;
Roediger, 199 I ; Lorimer, 1978).
Up until the 1960s inequality in South Africa was largely determined by race, which
functioned as a mechanism for determining who got to be privileged. Race served as a
South Africon Review of Sociology 2007, 38( I)
basis for constructing barriers to entry into privileged occupations and re-enforced high
discrepancies between incomes in different occupations (Seekings & Nattrass, 2005).
Poor whites were a group that particularly benefited from this race privilege. As a group,
they represented a potential problem for the construction of a homogenous, superior,
white race (Teppo, 2004). To solve the poor white problem, the South African government established a project of discriminatory job protection, welfare, and public education
to re-habilitate poor whites. Through this process of economic advantage and education,
poor whites would come to regulate and discipline themselves into moral, hardworking,
capitalist subjectivities, thus preventing the degeneration of the white race (Teppo, 2004).
From the 1970s onwards, economic inequality in South Africa has become increasingly
intra-racial (Crankshaw, 1997; Seekings & Nattrass, 2005). While occupational advancement of Africans has increased, this has been coupled with rising unemployment; thus
resulting in rising intra-racial inequality among Africans (Crankshaw, 1997). Whiteford &
Van Seventer (1999:9) demonstrate that while there was little change in the racial income
shares in South Africa over the period 19 17-1970; between 1970 and 1996, the interracial
inequality between income shares steadily reduced.
Table I Racial income and population shared in South Africa: 1970-1996
Share of Population
Share of Total Income
Sources: 1970 and 1980 data from McGrath (1983), 1991 data from Whiteford and McGrath (1994)
1970 and 1980 data estimated from Sadie (1993)
Table from Whiteford and van Seventer (1999: 9)
Note: Totals may not add to 100% due to rounding.
The above table indicates that from the I 970s onwards, interracial inequality in income
shares has been steadily decreasing. Income shares of the white population representing
less than 20% of the total population have dropped from 71 % in 1970 to 52% in 1996;
and income shares of the African population representing more than 70% of the total
population have risen from 20% in 1970 to 36%. However, when looked at in terms of
intra-racial inequality, it is evident that inequality continues to deepen within race groups
along class lines.
Table 2 Gini Coefficient: 1975-1996
Gini Coefficient
Source: Whiteford & Van Seventer ( 1999)
South African Review ofSoci%gy 2007, 38( I)
The Gini Coefficient is a measure of income inequality with 0 representing perfect equality
and I representing absolute inequality. The within population groups Gini’s indicate a substantial rise in inequality between 1991 and 1996. Among African households the Gini
increased from 0.62 to 0.66; among white households it increased from 0.46 to 0.5; and
among coloured and Asian households it increased from 0.52 to 0.56 and 0.49 to 0.52
respectively (Whiteford & van Seventer, 1999).
These statistics indicate the shift from a rigidly race based inequality in South Africa to
an increasingly class based inequality. While it is inaccurate to reduce inequality to racial
categories, it is also inaccurate to reduce inequality to economics. The experience of being
a black middle class South African is very different to the experience of being a white middle class South African. Throughout South Africa’s history, an ideology of white superiority
has reigned. Within this ideology, everything European is constructed as good and valued,
while at the same time de-valuing everything African (Manning, 2004). Black South Africans trying to move up the class ladder often find that the only way to do this is to take on
white cultural values, move into European style houses and live like white people (Manning, 2004). Black university students report that it is often easier to get things done when
you comply with the dominant norms and language of ‘white culture’ (Walker, 2005).
These studies indicate the ‘catch 22’ situation of black middle class South Africans, where
being economically successful implies complying with dominant cultural norms which reenforce white superiority.
Despite the decreasing interracial inequality, South Africa is not free of the racial legacies of colonialism and apartheid. These are legacies of white cultural privilege, as well as
continued white economic privilege by virtue of inherited economic advancement. Economically speaking, white South Africans no longer need to rely on active racial discrimination, as they can rely on the way in which race functioned to position them within the class
system (Seekings & Nattrass, 2005). In 1996 white per capita income was almost 9 times
higher than that of African per capita income (Whiteford & van Seventer, 1999). Furthermore, only I % of white South Africans compared with 60% of Africans are poor (Terreblanche, 2002). Therefore, race remains an important factor in understanding inequality in
post-apartheid South Africa, but must be understood in terms of class and the intricate
ways in which white South Africans are positioned at the centre of intersecting system of
race and class privilege.
1.2 Meta-theoretical perspective
This research is located within the meta-theoretical paradigms of post-structuralism and
social constructionism. Post-structuralism posits that we give meaning to our world
through language and the meanings we choose to give to our world are contingent, i.e.
one out of a number of possibilities (Phillips & Jorgensen, 2002). Social constructionism
posits that through giving meaning to our world we define the possibilities for action on
that world. Through action we constitute our world, and that action is possible only
through the meanings we give to the world (Durrheim, 1997).
Units of meaning are called discourses, defined as groups of statements that give
meaning to reality (Hall, 200 I). The interest of this research is in discourses used by white,
South African Review of Sociology 2007, 38( I)
wealthy South Africans to give meaning to poverty and development. However, the particular interest is in ideological discourses, defined as systems of meaning that dominant
groups attempt to fix as ‘truth’, that function to constitute and maintain their dominance
(Foucault, 1980; Thomson, 1984). J.B. Thompson describes three ideological strategies of
meaning mobilisation that are commonly used by dpminant groups to maintain their dominance:
Legitimisation is the strategy of presenting relations of dominance as
legitimate. This strategy can be understood as a form of justification for
unequal power distribution. By appealing to traditionally established,
rational or charismatic grounds, dominant groups use this strategy to argue
that their dominance is justified (Thompson, 1984). For example, the unequal relations of colonialism were justified by appealing to the grounds that
it was in ‘the natives’ best interests to be dominated and civilised by a
superior nation (Hall, 1992). Legitimisation functions to justify relations of
domination by presenting them as ‘the way things ought to be’.
Dissimulation is the strategy of concealing or denying relations of domination and presenting them as something other than they are. If relations
of domination are hidden, they cannot be challenged (Thompson, 1984).
Therefore, by rendering unequal power relations invisible, this strategy
functions to exclude the possibility that these relations may be challenged.
Mcintosh (1997) has identified one of the key privileges of dominant
groups is to be given the cultural permission to be oblivious to the fact that
their group is unfairly privileged above other groups.
Reification is the strategy of denying history and presenting the state of
affairs as if it was permanent, natural and existed outside of time. This
strategy functions to ideologically separate the current state of affairs from
the history that informs them (Thompson, 1984). By removing situations
from their historical context, this strategy often works hand in hand with
dissimulation to gloss over the historical power dynamics that led to a current situation of inequality. In the case of South Africa, this strategy functions to remove post-apartheid SqJth Africa from the legacy of apartheid,
and enable white South Africans to argue against structural transformation.
(Thompson, 1984).
These three discursive strategies comprise commonly mobilised strategies by dominant
groups to protect, legitimise and perpetuate their privilege. Privilege exists when one
group has something of value that is denied to another group simply because of their
group status and not because of anything they have done or failed to do Oohnson, 200 I).
Tatum (2003) provides a useful equation for understanding how systems of privilege
work: Privilege = prejudice + power. Where prejudice is pre-conceived ideas about a
group, power is access to social, cultural, and economic resources and decision-making
ability. By mobilising these sources of power, prejudiced attitudes can be worked into
institutions and systems in ways that function to privilege one group over another (Tatum,
South African Review of Sociology 2007, 38( I)
Mcintosh (1997) describes the system of white privilege as an invisible package of
unearned assets that white people can count on each day. Understanding racism and classism as systems of privilege means that these systems do not simply comprise individual
acts of meanness, or legalised discrimination. These are also the invisible systems that confer unsought dominance to one group from birth while at the same time allowing that
group to be oblivious to their dominance (Mcintosh, 1997). The history of inequality in
South Africa indicates that colonialism and apartheid functioned to entrench systems of
race and class privilege in South Africa, and to position white South Africans at the pinnacle of these intersecting systems of privilege. Below we unpack the literature on whiteness
and post-development to identify the ways in which discourses are mobilised by the white
and wealthy centres; and how these discourse~ function to perpetuate race and class systems of privilege.
1.3 Whiteness
Whiteness literature represents the emerging body of research that is attempting to turn
the academic gaze from the object of racism onto the subject of racism (Steyn, 2005). This
is an attempt to make visible the ways in which the privileged centre plays a role in maintaining a system of privilege. Frankenberg (1993) demonstrates that whiteness consists of
particular cultural content, and a particular way of viewing the world, of understanding
history and thinking about self. In her research into discourses of race mobilised by white
women in the U.S., she captures three moments of race discourse she found to be operating among her respondents: essentialist; colour/power evasive; and race cognisant.
Below I unpack these moments in race discourse illustrating the ways in which they have
been further emphasised by various local and international whiteness studies.
The essentialist discourse stems back to the colonial period where races were constructed as essential, biological categories (Frankenberg, 1993). During’the period of colonial expansion, various forms of travellers’ tales, racial taxonomies and ‘race science’
functioned to constitute the racist discourse that legitimised many institutional forms of
racist domination including slavery, colonialism, segregation and apartheid (Foster, 1993).
Stuart Hall (1992) terms this racist discourse the discourse of ‘the west and the rest’.
Through the discourse of ‘the west and the rest’, Europe was able to construct the rest
(everyone who was not European) as an inferior ‘other’ in relation to the West.
The colour/power evasive discourse is more common than the overtly racist essentialist discourse (Frankenberg, 1993). This discourse draws on liberal individualist discourse
to argue that we should not see colour, and instead treat everyone as colour-less individuals. Within this discourse, differences that are implicated in power are evaded with euphemisms in order to de-emphasise relations of domination. Through this discourse the
unequal power structures are played down and denied, in order to argue for the same
treatment regardless of race (Frankenberg, 1993).
The colour/power evasive discourse represents a ‘new’ or ‘inferential’ form of racism
that does not appear racist at first glance. By coding racist discourse, new racism evades
racist accusations (Solomos & Back, 1999). Dolby (200 I) illustrated how Durban high
school students were re-articulating race through a discourse of taste, and Steyn (2003)
South African Review of Sociology 2007, 38( I)
found that white South Africans re-articulate race through other signifiers like the ‘new
South Africa’ (wink wink).
Gallagher (1997) found a similar discourse to be operating in the United States in reaction to affirmative action policy. His findings indicate that white university students mobilised discourses of colour-blindness and individualism to argue that affirmative action was
unfair to whites. By ignoring the effects of race privilege and constructing America as a
place where hard work will result in success, his respondents constructed white Americans as victims of unfair discrimination (Gallagher, 1997). In terms of South African whiteness, research indicates that white South Africans mobilise a combination of discourses
that deny white privilege, argue for non-racial colour-blindness and construct whites as a
victimised racial category. These discourses function to legitimise and perpetuate white
racial privilege in South Africa (Ansell, 2004; Salusbury, 2003; Salusbury & Foster, 2004;
Steyn, 200 1,2002,2003,2005).
A further Significant aspect of whiteness in South Africa is the intersection between
white South Africans’ discourses of race and class. The discursive window through which
we aim to analyse white discourses is through white wealthy discourses regarding poverty. Historically, the intersection of classist and racist ideology has served white domination (Foster, 199 I). Research illustrates the ways in which white South African identity is
intimately bound up with middle class identity (Kalati & Manor, 1999; Salusbury, 2003;
Salusbury & Foster, 2004; Steyn, 2003, 2005). This research indicates that a significant element of maintaining white privilege comes from how white South Africans construct their
whiteness in terms of their middle class positionality.
The third race discourse that Frankenberg (1993) finds to be operating among antiracist white women is the race cognisance discourse, which acknowledges the existence
of race inequality and white privilege. This discourse also represents a more anti-racist
form of white identity. literature on whiteness has indicated the importance of recognising the heterogeneity of whiteness (Gallagher, 1999). For example, Teppo (2004)
researches poor whites in South Africa and Hartigan (2005) poor whites in America. Vron
Ware (1992) and Ruth Frankenburg (1993) have focused on the implication of white
women in racism, illustrating the intersection between race and gender. Giroux (1997)
has emphasised the importance of researching the possibility of constructing anti-racist
white identities. Therefore, although this research represents a particular focus into ideological discourses mobilised by white wealthy South Africans which function to maintain
their intersecting race/class privilege; this research does not represent all of white identity
and discourse in South Africa.
1.4 Post-development theory
Post-development represents a body of development theory that attempts to turn the
academic gaze from the poor ‘third world’ onto the powerful development industry. This
industry includes the variety of development planners, practitioners, organisations, academics and volunteers that concern themselves with the development and poverty alleviation of the ‘third world’. A major concern for post-development theorists has been to
deconstruct the development discourse being mobilised within this industry to show how
South African Review ofSoci%gy 2007, 38( I)
it functions to reproduce colonial relations of domination between the ‘first’ and ‘third’
worlds (Neederveen Pieterse, 2000).
Arturo Escobar (1988, 1997) tracks the production of development discourse illustrat~
ing how it functions to construct the ‘third world’ in ways that legitimise development
intervention. This discourse functions as a tool for creating and managing the third world
(Escobar, 1988, 1997). Various post-development theorists argue that development intervention functions as a continuation of Western Colonial imperialism (Briggs, 2002). For
example Kothari (1988: 143) asserts that ‘where colonialism left off, development took
over’; Esteva (1992: I I) critiques dependency theorists for ‘colonising anti colonialism’ by
re-enforcing the simple colonial binaries of developed vs. underdeveloped; and Nandy
(1997) asserts that development is the new colonising mission. Paulette Goudge (2003)
demonstrates the ways in which development aid is infused with racist judgements, and
functions to reproduce the global power dynamics that are intimately tied to whiteness.
While these theorists focus on the discourses of the professionals, academics and aid
volunteers that are explicitly involved in the development industry, they neglect the role
that lay (popular/everyday) discourses of poverty and development play in influencing relations of power between the wealthy, ‘developed’ and poor, ‘underdeveloped’. Reis &
Moore (2005) contribute to this area through a comparative study of elite perceptions of
poverty in the South. They argue that it is necessary to research and understand elite perceptions of poverty, because the values and norms underlying these perceptions can function to sustain or disrupt ongOing patterns of resource distribution. A number of
psychological studies have researched lay explanations of poverty, indicating that people
tend to explain poverty in individualistic (blame the poor) terms (Feagin, 1972; Harper,
Wagstaff, Newton & Harris, 1990; Wright, 1995). This widely held perception can be
traced back to the English 1834 Poor Law Act, which functioned to label the poor and categorise them as lazy (Ward, 1999). Although it provides a useful outline of lay explanations
of poverty, the attribution literature has been critiqued for locating explanations of poverty in individuals, and ignoring larger socio-political systems in which these discourses
operate (Harper, 1996).
A popular discourse mobilised by the wealthy to legitimise and sustain class domination is the moral economy discourse. This discourse constructs the wealthy as moral and
deserving and the poor as immoral and undeserving (Herman, 1999). It represents an
interesting intersection between three popular WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Person) discourses: Just world, Protestant work ethic and Liberal Meritocracy. ‘Just World’ is the
belief that people get what they deserve (Furnham, 1988; Lerner, 1980), ‘Protestant work
ethic’ is the belief that hard work is a good moral value (Weber, 1930) and ‘Liberal Meritocracy’ is the belief that pay and privilege should be awarded solely on the basis of merit
(Arrow, Bowles & Durlaf, 2000). These three discourses combine to support the notion
that the wealthy get jobs based on the fact that they are hard workers, and hard workers
are morally good people; therefore the wealthy are morally good people deserving of
their wealth. In opposition the poor are poor because they are lazy sinners.
Research conducted by Ballard (2004) and Kalati & Manor (1999) in South Africa, and
McCormack (2004) in America, illustrates the ways in which the wealthy mobilise the
South African Review of Sociology 2007, 38( I)
moral economy discourse to legitimise class domination. For example, Ballard (2004) illustrates the ways in which this powerful white South African narrative functions to obscure
the structural inequalities resulting from apartheid, and instead claim that the privilege of
white South Africans is a result of nothing else but hard work.
2 Methodology
Data were generated from ten qualitative, face to face, semi-structured interviews conducted with wealthy white South Africans (for more on semi-structured interviews see
Bernard, 1994). Each interview took between 45 minutes and 11/2 hours. The interview
tapes were transcribed, and the transcriptions formed the primary data source for analysis. To maintain confidentiality, pseudonyms have been used when quoting directly from
partici pants.
Sampling consisted of purposeful qualitative sampling methods (Patton, 2002), which
refers to the ‘calculated decision to sample a specific locale according to a preconceived
but reasonable initial set of dimensions (such as time, space, identity or power)’ (Glaser,
1978: 37 as cited in Coyne, 1997). The set of identity dimensions decided upon were age,
nationality, gender, race and wealth. The practical limits of this research project only
allowed for a small sample. Although it would preferably have been larger and could
expand in future work, the re-occurrence of themes across interviews indicated that the
material is sufficiently valuable in its own right to report at this stage as a preliminary study.
The sample consisted of five male and five female white, wealthy, South Africans between
the ages of 40 and 60 who have been living in South Africa for at least the past IS years.
This represents a group that was privileged by the apartheid regime, have now lost their
privilege in the political realm, but maintain their privilege in the economic and cultural
realms (Steyn, 2005).
The term ‘wealthy’ does not refer to the extremely rich, but rather alludes to the economic privilege enjoyed by this group (Steyn, 2005). Oliver (200 I) defines wealth as the
total value of an individuals accumulated assets. Where income refers to the inflow of
money for day to day necessities to maintain a particular standard of living, assets are associated with savings and investments used to create or take advantage of economic opportunities. The category wealthy implies accumulated assets, and is more appropriate for
understanding the nature of racial privilege, as it connects. past economic privilege to the
present economic situation of white South Africans. Due to past racial systems of domination, white South Africans have inherited and accumulated a vast asset base that allows for
greater economic opportunity and mobility in contemporary society. Therefore, my
respondents were not only wealthy in terms of their income and standard of living, but
also in terms of their inherited asset base reflected in their big houses on prime property,
second holiday houses, and expensive cars.
There is a range of different types of discourse analysis available to researchers within
the post-structuralist and social constructionist meta-theoretical approach (Phillips & Jorgensen, 2002; Wood & Kroger, 2000). Our approach to discourse analysis was most similar to that of Laclau & Mouffe insofar as identifying the ways in which participants were
attempting to fix particular meanings as if they were the ‘truth’ of the situation (Phillips &
South African Review of Sociology 2007, 38( I)
Jorgensen, 2002). Analysis also contained elements of a Foucauldian approach which is
concerned with understanding how particular meanings function -to support relations of
power (Foucault, I 980; Parker, 1992)
In terms of doing discourse analysis, we combined qualitative data analysis (Dey, 1993;
Miles and Huberman, 1994; Hammersley, 1993) with Parker’s (1992, 1994) methodology
for identifying discourses and J.B. Thompson’s analytic framework for identifying ideological discourse. To generate first level codes, Ian Parker’s (1992, 1994) twelve steps for
identifying discourses was used. In a nutshell the steps allow the researcher to identify the
versions of the social world (discourses) being constructed in the text. This includes the
particular ways of speaking about objects, the rights of speech given to subjects occurring
in the text and the possibility and implications of alternative versions of the social world.
Seven auxiliary steps deal with how the identified versions of the social world support or
subvert institutions and relations of power (Parker, 1992, 1994).
Second level codes consisted of identifying patterns of re-occurring discourses and the
connections between these discourses. A constant process of re-organising data resulted
in seven re-occurring discourses organised into three clusters (Appendix A). Where the
discourses represent the systems of meaning constructed, the clusters represent three
different ways in which these discourses were attempting to maintain white privilege. We
then applied J.B. Thomson’s (1984) analytical framework to the second level clusters in
order to identify whether or not they mobilised the three strategies of ideological discourse: legitimisation, dissimulation and reification.
3 Results and discussion
There was a consistent thread that ran through each of the interviews: the theme of maintaining white privilege. In the sections below, we unpack six popular discourses mobilised
by participants on topics of poverty and development. These are organised into three
clusters representing the function of these discourses: (i) defending white privilege, (ii)
resisting power distribution, and (iii) championing individualism.
3.1 Defending white privilege
The history of South Africa is a history of white privilege. In the New South Africa, white
South Africans continue to enjoy economic privilege through their inherited asset base
(Oliver, 200 I); and race privilege through their invisible knapsack of taken for granted
benefits afforded to them and not to other races (Mcintosh, 1997). However, since the
democratic elections the political system is committed towards challenging unfair race
privilege (Steyn, 200 I). In a context where white privilege is no longer assumed, some
white South Africans tend to mobilise various discursive strategies to deny and defend
their privileged positionings (Steyn, 200 I). Participants mobilised two different yet interconnecting discourses to defend their white privilege: the discourse of denial and the discourse of a just world.
3.1.1 The discourse of denial
The construction of White South African identity is characterised by a denial of white priv-
South African Review of SOciology 2007, 38( I)
ilege (Steyn, 2005). This denial of white privilege can be described as a discursive strategy
mobilised by white South Africans to deny the ways in which they were implicated in the
apartheid system and to deny the effects of this system that continue to structure the
present (Ansell, 2004; Ballard, 2004; Steyn, 200 I, 2005). Similar discursive strategies are
mobilised in the U.S, where white Americans construct America as meritocratic, and
refuse to accept responsibility for their involvement in racist structures that disadvantage
African Americans (Gallagher, 1997; Statman, 1999).
Participants reflect this discourse of denial discussed by Ansell (2004), Ballard (2004)
Gallagher (1997), Statman (1999) and Steyn (2003, 2005). In discussing the apartheid system, all participants acknowledge that the apartheid system was wrong, describing it as
inhumane and a disgrace. In his interview, Mark describes the apartheid system in a similar
way to the other nine respondents:
Luke: Well, the apartheid government was an absolute disgrace, you cannot discriminate the way they did. You sawall the stuff that was going on in
the TRC; some ofthat stuff was hairy [colloquial: frightening].
Although Luke represents the apartheid government as an absolute disgrace, he separates
himself from the discriminatory practices of this government by asserting, ‘you cannot discriminate the way they did’. Similar statements were made by jenny that ‘the old government has a lot to answer for’ and by john that ‘we had this inhumane government’. In all
three of these statements, the old government is blamed for apartheid and discrimination.
By blaming the apartheid government, these wealthy white South Africans are not taking
responsibility for the part they played in apartheid. Ballard’s (2004) research in Durban
indicates similar discourses, where white respondents vehemently criticise apartheid, but
do not acknowledge their complicity in the system.
Some of my participants do acknowledge the ways in which they were affected and
privileged by the apartheid regime. However, by constructing the new South Africa as
meritocratic (where race privilege no longer exists and people are rewarded solely on the
base of their abilities), these participants deny the ways in which they continued to benefit
from the legacy of apartheid.
john: a part of the white population had their jobs~by virtue of the colour
of their skin .,. I think those people would have lost their jobs; they didn’t
have the qualifications, or the talents that they would have needed to go
out and find alternative employment.
Paul: Generally everyone would be better off. The people who have suffered would be lower income white, who might have had the benefit
under apartheid of job reservation. With that having fallen away, a lot of
those would have lost their jobs to blacks.
Luke: ‘Now we’re down the line now. University is churning out half/half.’
Both john and Paul believe that the privileges, such as job reservation, accrued to whites
South African Review of Sociology 2007, 38( I)
during apartheid are now lost in the New South Africa. Behind this belief is an assumption
that whites who have kept their jobs have done so because they deserve that job, rather
than through race privilege. Luke represents South Africa as a place that is ‘down the line’
in terms of equality, asserting that university is churning out half whites and half blacks as
proof of race equality. Therefore, participants generally construct post-apartheid South
Africa as a racially equal and meritocratic society where people get jobs by virtue of
deserving them and not by race privilege.
The discourse of denial functions as an ideological strategy of reification and dissimulation. The denial discourse is reifying ‘the new South Africa’ by ideologically separating the
current state of affairs from the history that informs it. Furthermore the denial discourse
glosses over the unequal relations of power by constructing the new South Africa as a
place where white privilege no longer exists. By separating the present from the past and
glossing over unequal relations of power, these ideological strategies effectively absolve
the dominant white group from feeling guilty or taking responsibility for their dominance
and privilege.
of a just world
The discourse of a just world constructs the world as a place where people get what they
deserve (Furnham, 1988; Lerner, 1980). Furnham’s (1985) study indicated that many
white South Africans held a belief that the world is just. Furthermore, Rubin and Peplau
( I 973) found that believers in a just world tend to believe in the protestant work ethic and
an individual locus of control. Most participants attempted to legitimise their class privilege
by constructing themselves as deserving of that privilege, because they possess traits valued by the protestant work ethic.
3.1.2 The discourse
Paul: Yes, the wealthy take responsibility for their wealth; they are disciplined and work in an orderly fashion to create economic benefit for one
Sue: I think the wealthy actually create jobs, and wealth is distributed in the
form of tax. So if the wealthy are paying their taxes, then I don’t think you
are contributing to the poverty in the country. I really don’t.
Jane: I am sick of being a guilty white South African! My parents came here
and worked hard for what they got.
Paul, Sue and Jane argue that White South Africans deserve their wealth because they are
disciplined, orderly, hardworking, industrious and create economic benefit. These five
traits are highly valued by the protestant work ethic and are believed to indicate a high
level of morality (Weber, 1930). By drawing on these traits, participants are invoking the
classist discourse of a protestant work ethic to legitimise their wealth.
While constructing themselves as deserving their wealth, they construct the black
poor as deserving of their poverty. Most participants blame the poor for their situation by
attributing poverty to individual or cultural characteristics of the poor.
Tom: I’m sorry to say it, but in the black man’s culture, the more children
South African Review of Sociology 2007, 38( I )
they have the more wealthy they are. And the irony of it is the more children they have, the poorer they will be, and the poorer the country will be
and the more crime there will be etc. etc. The single biggest cause of
crime and poverty in this country is breeding. Over-breeding!
Paul: Lack of mental capacity of the poor people who are predominantly
black. To me it’s a bit of a racial characteristic of the black, in their stage of
development as people, that they don’t have the same mental capacity and
drive to achieve control over the environment and achieve material wealth
as much as others have.
Jenny: I think you just get nations that are harder working than others; the
black people don’t have that. And if you go back to some of the black traditions and the Kraal situation, the women go out and work, and the men
stay at home and smoke. I think that doesn’t help because they don’t have
that work ethic.
Tom puts forward a view held by five participants that the poor are poor because they
cannot control their breeding. Paul attributes poverty to a lack of intelligence that he
views as a characteristic of the black race. Jenny attributes poverty to an African tradition
of being lazy. These quotes represent an attempt to legitimise class privilege by drawing
on racist discourse. Black poor South Africans are constructed as oversexed, unintelligent
and lazy. These are characteristics that feature strongly in the colonial discourses of the
‘West and the rest’; and reflect the essentialist race discourse outlined by Frankenberg
(1993) that functioned to construct the :African other’ as backward, immoral, oversexed
and lazy (Hall, 1992).
In an attempt to construct the world as just, participants invoke an interesting strategy
of legitimisation, drawing on both racist and classist discourse. The racist discourse of the
‘west and the rest’ is mobilised to legitimise the poverty of black South Africans, and the
classist discourse of protestant work ethic is mobilised to legitimise the wealth of white
South Africans. Similarly, Ballard’s (2004) research showed white South African discourses
that blame the poor for their poverty, by constructing them as greedy, undeserving and
immoral. Steyn (2003) argues that the alignment of ‘white talk’ with dominant (neo-) colonial discourses ensures that the poverty problem is always positioned outside of whiteness
and racism. These discourses function to absolve wealthy white South Africans from taking moral responsibility for the dire situation of the poor in South Africa.
3.2 Oe-Iegitimising black power
Where white South Africans continue to hold race privilege in the economic and cultural
realms, they have lost their privilege in the political realm (Steyn, 200 I). The government
is implementing policies of racial redress in an effort to challenge the economic privilege
that whites continue to hold Oames & Lever, 200 I). Politics represents a realm where
black South Africans have gained power, and economics represents a realm where they
are attempting to gain power. Steyn (2003, 2005) and Salusbury & Foster (2004) illustrate
South African Review of Sociology 2007, 38( I)
the ways in which white South Africans de-legitimise the political power gained by black
South Africans by punishing any policies that offend whiteness, while at the same time
privileging the economic, corporate realms. Similarly, participants’ construct meaning
around politics and economics through the discourses of ‘the undeserving ANC and ‘economics over politics’. The mobilisation of these discourses functions to re-claim and maintain white privilege through the challenging and resisting of the racial distribution of
3.2.1 The discourse
of the undeserving ANC
Steyn (2003) illustrates the ways in which ‘white talk’ mobilises discourses of decay, corruption, greed and incompetence to construct post-apartheid South Africa as a ‘fiasco’,
thereby de-Iegitimising the change in the status quo that has granted greater political
power to black South Africans. In similar ways, participants attempt to challenge black
power through constructing the black African National Congress (ANC) government as
undeserving of their power. A total of eight participants constructed the ANC as not
deserving their power due to their inability, greed and corruption.
Anne: They are behaving like a bunch of monkeys; in fact, I think monkeys
could do a better job because they are actually more intelligent and they
go with nature.
Kate: I also see in terms of the government, and it irks me and upsets me,
but there is a lot of siphoning of funds to build themselves better houses,
drive five cars instead of two, have a million bodyguards around them
through their paranoia, and the very people that have put them into power
are not reaping the benefits of them being in that position.
Luke: Look at Zuma now and his wife paying off all his debts, and then the
arms scandal. The arms scandal is an absolute disgrace. How can South
Africa, a country where there is so much poverty, go and buy four of these
corvettes which we didn’t need.
In her use of the phrase ‘a bunch of monkeys’, Anne constructs the ANC as backward, and
Kate and Luke construct the ANC as greedy and immoral. …These representations of the
ANC as backward, greedy and immoral are presented as reasons why black South Africans are not deserving of their political power. By invoking the discourse of the undeserving ANC, my participants are mobilising the discursive strategy of de-Iegitimisation.
Wealthy white South Africans construct the ANC government as incapable, greedy and
corrupt. These traits are almost in complete opposition to WASPish traits that white
South Africans identify as valued and deserving of wealth and power. Although these participants do not explicitly link these backward, greedy and corrupt constructions of the
ANC government to their blackness; these qualities notably reflect racist colonial constructions of African governments found to be operating in South African white talk
(Steyn, 2003) and development discourse (Goudge, 2003).
By constructing the black ANC as undeserving of their political power, that power is
South African Review of Sociology 2007, 38( I)
de-legitimised. It is interesting that through the undeserving ANC discourse, my participants are now constructing the world as unjust. They are presenting a world where the
black ANC do not deserve what they have. This discourse functions to construct the
world as unjust, as people get what they do not deserve (Furnham, 1988). When they
speak about white wealth and black poverty, white South Africans present the world as
just, but when they speak about black power they present the world as unjust. There is in
fact continuity between these seemingly contradictory views in terms of their larger function to maintain white privilege. By constructing a world where whites are wealthy and
blacks poor as just, the privilege whites gain from that world is justified and maintained. By
constructing a world where blacks have power as unjust, their loss of privilege is challenged.
3.2.2 The discourse
of business over politics
The ANC may have gained political power but white South Africans continue to own and
control the commercial sphere Uames & Lever, 200 I). The discourse of ‘economics over
politics’ is used to construct meaning around the economic and political realms. This discourse functions to subvert black political power by valuing the economic realm while at
the same time de-valuing the political realm. One form this discourse takes is to devalue
government and then assert that business should take over government:
Luke: In fact, I think the time will come in the future when perhaps there
won’t be any governments; we will be sick and tired of them because they
take you to war, they take away your taxes, and they don’t do too much
for you.
John: Government intervention doesn’t work and that is really a problem,
because government makes countries poor; there is too much government. That is where somehow business has to do it; business has to actually assess the situation and somehow look at how they can create more
business and more jobs.
These quotes illustrate the attempt by respondents to de-legitimise black power by delegitimising the political realm in which blacks have gained power. By constructing government as useless and contributing to poverty, these participants de-legitimise the realm of
government. Furthermore by arguing that business should replace government, participants are attempting to replace black political power with white economic privilege.
One respondent illustrated an interesting version of this discourse where she argues
that people with more economic power should be given more political power.
Jenny: In fact, whatever tax you pay that should be the weight of your vote,
and that’s not a bad thing either because it encourages people to work,
because the more you put into it, the more you have a control over what’s
going to happen in your country. I’m not saying that the poor shouldn’t get
a vote, just that it should be weighted. Otherwise you can get a situation
where a mindless majority has more of an influence than an educated
minority. And one wonders how good that is for the country if a mindless
South African Review of SOciology 2007, 38( I)
majority are saying what’s going to happen to the country.
Whites continue to hold the majority of the wealth in South Africa Games & Lever, 200 I).
By arguing that the wealthy should get more of the vote, Jenny is in fact arguing that white
South Africans should get more of the vote. This proposal is supported by the assertion
that it is not good for the country if a mindless majority has more influence than an educated minority. By constructing the majority black poor in South Africa as mindless, Jenny
echoes the familiar colonial discourse that constructs the :African other’ as inferior and
unintelligent. Her argument for the increased political power of wealthy whites could be
explained in terms reminiscent of colonial thinking about the legitimacy, even necessity for
whites to hold political power.
These findings are supported by other research conducted on white South African discourse. Salusbury & Foster (2004) found that White English Speaking South Africans
(WESSAs) downplay party politics and instead promote corporate business. Similarly,
research conducted by Steyn (2003, 2005) found that South African ‘white talk’ privileges
discourses of big business as being more important for the country than discourses of
social justice.
2.3 Championing individualism
In a study conducted on values systems in South Africa in 1984, Furnham found that in
contrast to the collective-socially orientated values of Black South Africans, White South
Africans espoused individualistic-privatistic values (Furnham, 1984). The present study
indicates that 22 years later, white South Africans continue to espouse individualistic values. This individualism is most strongly reflected in the ways in which participants construct solutions to poverty and racism. Through the discourses of ‘the good white
Samaritan’ and ‘reverse racism vs. non-racialism’, participants locate solutions to poverty
and racism within individuals. These individualist discourses function to maintain white
privilege by excluding the possibility of structural transformation.
3.3.1 The discourse of the good white Samaritan
Many participants disconnect their wealth from other people’s poverty. They fail to see
the ways in which they are part of a larger system that benefits them at the expense of the
poor. Despite the belief that they are not responsible for j;)0verty, some participants do
believe that there is something that white South Africans can do to fight poverty.
Kate: If you have starfish analogy in your heads. If you have saved one starfish, it is better than helping none at all. If you can save one poor person, it
is better than saving none at all. Everybody has that ability in one form or
Sue: If each individual in South Africa took someone under their wing and
said ‘I will teach you what I know’. I think the white people in this country
don’t really care, they have no compassion to help the black people. We
need some good Samaritans around.
South African Review ofSoci%gy 2007, 38( I)
In both these quotes, the individual relations between white wealthy and poor blacks are
emphasised. Strategies for tackling poverty are located within individual qualities such as
compassion and care of white wealthy South Africans.
Peck finds similar discourses operating in the Oprah Winfrey show where Americans
attribute the problem of racism to the prejudiced attitudes of individuals (Peck, 1992).
Peck indicates that although these views appear to be challenging racism, they are in fact
supporting it by silencing the possibility of structural change. The value that current participants place on the role of the individual in tackling racism and poverty functions to gloss
over the fact that racism and poverty are maintained by larger structures of power.
Therefore, individualist discourse is being mobilised for purposes of dissimulation, to conceal the structural relations of domination existing between wealthy white and poor black.
A closer look at these quotes indicates that participants are not only ignoring the
larger structures that support their privilege, but are also subtly legitimising them. In these
quotes white South Africans are constructed as the saviours of the black poor, who in turn
are constructed as needing to be ‘saved’ by the white wealthy. This conjures up colonial
images of the advanced ‘West’ needing to civilise the backward ‘rest’ (Hall, 1992). Goudge
(2003) illustrates the ways in which the development aid industry invokes this discourse of
‘us’ helping ‘them’ to construct aid workers as do-gooders, while at the same time reenforcing notions of the unquestionable superiority of white westerners. This colonial
imagery is echoed particularly strongly in Sue’s quote below in her discussion of her
domestic worker, who she is helping to train to be a beautician:
Sue: They need to be taken and led like Sandra does. I need to take her
now and say ‘Now come on, this is nonsense. I’ve got to take you up there
now, and you are going to pass your exam’. You’ve got to be like that with
children as well.
These participants are constructing two opposite binaries. On the one side there is the
advanced, wealthy, saviour (whites), and on the other side the poor, helpless, backward
(blacks). This discourse is remarkably similar to the colonial discourse of ‘the west and the
rest’, constructed by Europe to legitimise colonisation. By invoking colonial binaries of the
west and the rest, this discourse is legitimising power structures that privilege whiteness.
3.2./ The discourse of reverse racism vs. non-racialism
Affirmative action policies represent an attempt to distribute the power and privilege that
white South Africans continue to hold in the economic realm Uames & Lever, 200 I). Gallagher (1997) demonstrates the ways in which white American university students construct whiteness as a victimised positionality. His respondents drew on individualist and
colour blind discourses to construct America as meritocratic and affirmative action as
unfair discrimination. Ansell (2004) found that white South Africans mobilise a similar discourse that constructs affirmative action as reverse racism, and white South Africans as
victims of this policy. Most participants mobilised this reverse racism discourse in an
attempt to challenge the equal distribution of economic power.
South Africon Review of Sociology 2007, 38( I)
Jenny: Nothing should be decided on the colour of your skin as in the old
government. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. It’s wrong now that
you are being given jobs because you are black. It’s as bad as it was before.
I don’t know how they can say that that’s so bad in the old government and
then bring it in to the new government and say it’s a good thing. We’re ten
years down the line; it’s no longer a necessary thing.
John: It’s an absolute bucket of bullshit. You can’t use reverse discrimination. If somebody is suitable for the job, then dam mit, you can’t not give
them the job because it’s an affirmative action position. Especially because
children coming out of school now, if they are white children, they really
had nothing to do with the sins of their parents; so they shouldn’t be discriminated against.
By constructing the situation of white South Africans in the present as removed from the
history of the past, this anti-anti-racism discourse mobilises the ideological strategy of reification. This is evident in jenny’s assertion that because we are ten years down the line,
affirmative action is no longer necessary, and John’s assertion that white children are innocent of the sins of their parents. These assertions reflect an unwillingness of respondents
to recognise the structural inequalities that remain in South Africa and function to privilege
their race and class positioning. This ideological strategy of reification is necessary for
white South Africans to be able to construct post-apartheid South Africa as meritocratic,
and white South Africans as victims of affirmative action.
In comparison to the reverse racism discourse, the discourse of non-racialism is a discourse that was mobilised by the ANC to resist racist apartheid practice (Frederikse,
1990; James & Lever, 200 I). This non-racialism discourse presented a vision of South
Africa where all citizens are equal and race is not a factor. However, when the ANC came
into power, they recognised that before non-racialism was possible, unequal racial structures would need to be addressed. It is only through racial redress that white privilege can
be challenged, and it is only through challenging white privilege that we can strive towards
a non-racial society Games & Lever, 200 I).
Ansell (2004) and Steyn (2003) illustrate the ways in which white South Africans mobilise this liberatory discourse of non-racialism. By ignoringrthe need for racial redress,
white South Africans use non-racialism discourse in ways that function to maintain white
privilege and give whites the moral high ground (Ansell, 2004; Steyn, 2003). The discourse
of non-racialism as mobilised by participants and reflected in Ansell’s (2004) and Steyn’s
(2003) research is similar to the colour/power evasive discourse identified by Frankenberg
(1993). This discourse draws on liberal individualism to argue that we should treat everyone the same regardless of race. This colour blind discourse functions to play down or
deny the unequal power structures existing between races. Participants mobilised a
power evasive discourse of non-racialism, which they presented in opposition to the discourse of reverse racism. This functioned to create a comparison between black ANC and
white South Africans that presents white South Africans as less racist and more moral than
black South Africans:
South African Review of Sociology 2007, 38( I)
Jenny: I know there are systems in place which prevent white people from
getting work. And it has been legislated by the government. It is unfair
because the people like your generation are going to suffer the most, and
they had nothing to do with the old government at all. I think it’s unfair,
because I think what we should be doing is creating a new country, a new
nation; we should be creating a rainbow nation as was originally intended
by Mandela. What we are doing is actually squeezing the white people out.
Anne: I also don’t agree with removing somebody because they have got a
white skin, to give somebody the job with a black skin. If they’ve worked
for it and the gap is there, be my guest … and let’s live together, and if you
deserve a position, get the position, as long as you deserve it. Or create a
position, but don’t make the people who have built the county up suffer,
because if it wasn’t for previous white government and wealthy whites,
the country wouldn’t be where it is today. Let’s integrate, let’s share, let’s
respect. Like when a river meets the sea you get a mixture. That’s really
what it should be – happy integration.
Kate: I don’t agree with Affirmative action, and I’ll explain Why. If we are
going to move from a racial society to a non-racial society, which is what
supposedly this country is aspiring to do. You cannot appoint somebody
on the basis of their colour; you must appoint them on the basis of their
Jenny, Anne and Kate construct affirmative action policies as in opposition to ideas of a
rainbow nation, happy integration and non-racialism. In doing so, they ignore the need for
structural change in South Africa, and instead locate the solution to racism in not ‘seeing’
race. However, to not ‘see’ race when racism is still built into the structures of South
Africa is in fact racist, as you are allowing these racist structures to continue. This ‘colourblind’ discourse serves an ideological strategy of reification and dissimulation. By reifying
race as something that exists in individuals, rather than something that is historically built
into the structures of South African society, the power structures that operate independently of individual attitudes are glossed over.
Furthermore, these white South Africans are using a racist definition of non-racialism
to construct themselves as non-racist! This mobilisation of non-racialism not only functions to allow a racist system to continue, but presents white South Africans as non-racist,
thereby giving them the moral high ground. One of the ways in which dominance is legitimised is through appealing to moral grounds. Therefore, through the use of this nonracialism discourse, participants appeal to moral grounds of non-racism to legitimate racist
4 Conclusion
Overall this research highlights the ways in which white privilege is being maintained
through white wealthy discourses of poverty and development. By invoking the six discourses discussed above, partiCipants mobilise various combinations of the ideological
South Africon Review of Sociology 2007, 38(1)
strategies of dissimulation, legitimisation and reification. In general, post-apartheid South
Africa is ideologically removed from the history that informs it, allowing white South Africans to gloss over the power structures that continue to operate and to argue against
attempts to re-distribute white power and privilege. In addition to this reification of postapartheid South Africa and dissimulation of the power structures within it; participants
legitimise their wealth, while at the same time de-Iegitimising the black power by invoking
the moral economy discourse.
These findings correlate strongly with other studies on whiteness in South African
(Ansell, 2004; Ballard, 2004; Salusbury & Foster, 2004; Steyn, 2003) and internationally
(Gallagher, 1997; Frankenberg 1993). Participants mobilised various discourses of denial,
individualism and colour/power blindness identified by Frankenberg (1993) and Gallagher
(1997) as key elements of white discourse in the United States; and subsequently identified by Ansell (2004); Steyn (2003) and Salusbury & Foster (2004) as key elements of
whiteness in South Africa. These findings also diverge somewhat from other studies of
whiteness, due to the emphasis given to discourses of poverty and development.
Ballard (2004), is perhaps most similar in his emphasis on discourses of Social Justice
and Urban Change. His findings similarly indicate the discourses of denial and the moral
economy discourses operating among white South Africans. The strong intersection
between race and class discourses found by this research and Ballard’s (2004) research,
was also evident in the other studies on whiteness, but less of an emphasis was placed on
the use of traditional classist discourses of a just world (Furnham, 1988) and a moral economy (McCormack, 2004).
This research has implications for both development studies and white racial identity
formation in a post-apartheid South Africa. To be more effective in combating the huge
inequality and poverty in South Africa, there is a need for development studies to turn its
gaze onto the wealthy white South African centre. The discourses available to this group
to construct the situation in South Africa counter the aims of development. These discourses need to be deconstructed and challenged. If left unchallenged, white wealthy discourses of poverty and development will remain hegemonic and their function in
maintaining privilege will continue.
The second implication of this research is for white wealthy South African identity formation. David Roediger and Noellgnatiev argue that the only way to get rid of racism is to
abolish white identity by abolishing the privileges of the white skin. They assert that whiteness is synonymous with racism, falseness and oppression. Therefore as long as the white
race exists, racism will continue (lgnatiev, 1996; Roediger, 1994). While it is indisputable
that white identity is historically and internationally connected to domination and racism,
Giroux (1997) and Steyn (200 I) argue for the possibility of re-articulating whiteness as an
anti-racist identity. Giroux (1997) argues that it may be possible for whiteness to be renegotiated as a productive force towards anti-racism, if the legacy and implications of
whiteness are seriously acknowledged and critically engaged.
In a similar vein, Steyn (200 I) argues that in post-apartheid South Africa, there is
potential for white South Africans to de-construct whiteness and step into a more antiracist identity space. However, for this to happen white South Africans need to get to the
South African Review of Sociology 2007. 38( I)
point where they take de-racialisation seriously (Steyn. 200 I). This requires that they seriously acknowledge the legacy of white domination in South Africa and grapple with their
feelings of guilt in order to take responsibility for the implications of their racial privilege.
They secondly need to develop a critical understanding of the colonial discourses that supported exploitation and domination and reject the hidden. power evasive agendas that
perpetuate inequality (Steyn. 200 I). Now is the time for white South Africans to re-negotiate their whiteness from an identity based on domination and racism to one based on
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Appendix a: list and definitions of clusters and codes
Cluster I. Defending white privilege – In a context where white privilege is no longer
assumed, some white South Africans tend to mobilise discourses that function to defend
their privileged pOSitioning.
Code I. I Denial – This discourse is mobilised by participants to deny their role in the
apartheid system. Although race privilege under the apartheid regime is acknowledged,
white privilege resulting from the legacy of this regime is not acknowledged.
Code 1.2 A just world – This discourse constructs the world as a just place where people get what they deserve. Through this discourse the white wealthy are constructed as
deserving their wealth and the black poor are constructed as responsible for their pov-
Cluster 2. De-Iegitimising black power – In a context where black South Africans
have gained political power, this discursive strategy attempts to de-legitimise the political
realm and resist the erosion of white privilege in this realm.
Code 2.1 The undeserving ANC – This discourse constructs the ANC government as
unable, greedy and corrupt, thereby de-Iegitimising their political power.
Code 2.2 Business over politics – This discourse constructs the corporate, business
realm, in which white South Africans continue to dominate, as more valuable than the
political realm.
South African Review o(Sociology 2007, 38( I)
Cluster 3. Championing individualism – This discursive strategy proposes individualist
solutions to poverty and racism, which amount to individual good deeds and treating everyone as individuals regardless of their race. This strategy functions to gloss over power
relations and exclude the possibility of structural transformation.
Code 3.1 The good white Samaritan – This discourse argues that although white
wealthy South Africans are not responsible for poverty, individuals should be more compassionate. Strategies for tackling poverty are located in individual qualities of compassion,
rather than structural transformation and re-distribution.
Code 3.2 Reverse racism vs. non-racialism – This comparative discourse constructs
affirmative action as reverse racism and contrasts this with the liberal individualist discourse of non-raCialism. This comparison functions to resist racial redress while at the
same time giving white South Africans the moral high ground.

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