Synergies, Stalemates and Social Dilemmas. Governance in South Africa in Comparative Perspective

University dissertation from Olle Frödin, Department of Sociology, Lund University

Abstract: This thesis focuses on the consequences of the institutional transformations in South Africa during the 1990s with specific reference to the introduction of a mode of local governance based on the direct participation of private and civic actors in policymaking and implementation. The study also aims to contribute to theory. The approach is that public, private and civic associations are best understood as components of the same formal institutional order rather than as distinct institutional spheres, with the focus on governance, defined as the coordination and conciliation of interdependent activities via institutions. In order to analyse governance, it is necessary to explain why actors draw on different logics of action in different institutional contexts. The assumption is that social life consists of various situations in which people invoke different roles prescribing different repertoires of socially acceptable practices applicable to different situations. Such mutually agreed-upon situation definitions are here called transaction domains, denoting a mu-tually agreed-upon definition of a situation according to which a particular logic of interaction, exchange or decision-making is considered socially acceptable. From this perspective, societies, i.e. large aggregations of actors, may appear like coherent ontological entities if a sufficient number of people establish domain consensus, defined as a general acceptance of a set of transaction domains. In order to achieve governance in contemporary societies, most actors and organizations have to accept and rely upon some formal institutions. The new democratic governance framework, introduced in South Africa during the 1990s, stipulates that local private and civic sector representatives are to work in partnership with the public sector representatives to promote socio-economic development. In the wake of this framework three types of outcomes were triggered in the case study localities. In the first type of outcome, synergy, the nodes in the network shared similar situation definitions, allowing domain consensus to be reached; they could thereby establish complementary relationships in the entire planning and implementation chain. In the second type of outcome, stalemate, the nodes did not identify with a shared sense of interdependence and domain consensus was not reached. As a result, the planning and implementation process deadlocked. In the third type of outcome, social dilemma, the establishment of a public-private link, through which development funds were channeled, triggered discontent in the local community on the part of those citizens who did not gain access to funding. The lack of domain consensus and well-established formal procedures drew the public and private actors involved in the resulting conflicts into a pattern of interaction in which they employed informal methods to pursue their conflicting objectives. On the basis of these case study results, supported by other studies, the thesis contends that the introduction of a networked model of governance in South Africa made local governments appear unpredictable. The South African local government framework tacitly requires both domain and goal consensus, since planning and implementation need to involve a high number of public and private actors located on different levels of society.