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Re-siting corporate responsibility

The making of South Africa's Avon entrepreneurs

Catherine Dolan and Mary Johnstone-Louis

The bottom-of-the-pyramid (BOP) approach is championed as a way to deliver both corporate profits and poverty reduction. This article explores how “the poor” are repurposed as the instruments of ethical capitalism through the archetypal BOP model—Avon Cosmetics. A harbinger of “compassionate capitalism,” Avon has long stylized its entrepreneurial opportunity as a channel to a transcendent realm of self-actualization and social transformation. The company pursues this vision through a set of discourses and calculative practices that aim to produce industrious, self-disciplined, and empowered “entrepreneurs.” However, while BOP systems like Avon may provide a viable income stream for “poor” women, the practices through which women are “converted” into enterprising subjects can confound their intended “empowerment” effects. The article suggests that while targeting the “bottom of the pyramid” may elide the distinction between the maximization of profit and the imperatives of sustainable development, devolving corporate social responsibility (CSR) to the “entrepreneurial poor” raises questions about the implications of “making poverty business.”

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Strange Fruit

The South African Truth Commission and the Demonic Economies of Violence

Allen Feldman

At no other time more than in the present day has individual, social and institutional memory come under such concerted pressure, critique and exposure as a fragile foundation for truth and facticity. This current reluctance to authenticate social memory is intimately tied to well-known postmodernist depredations, which profoundly disenchanted the authority of tradition and authenticity, and emptied core institutionalised myths of their temporal and semantic continuity. As institutionalised memory fails to provide overarching master narratives that can win cultural consent, it has also become increasingly disjunctive with previously unnarratable history and experience. Consider the synchronic fictions of recent ethno-histories, the historians’ debate in Germany on the facticity of the Holocaust, or even the critique of post-traumatic stress disorder and other recuperations of traumatic memory whose fictive psycho-medical legitimacy has been challenged by Alan Young and Ian Hacking.

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Victoria Graham

A. Stepan (ed.) Democracies in danger L. Diamond and M.F. Plattner (eds.) Democracy: A reader

A. Jeeves and G. Cuthbertson (eds.) Fragile freedom: South African democracy 1994–2004

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Ambassador Dumisani S. Kumalo

Keynote address of the 2011 Conference of the Consortium for Comparative Research on Regional Integration and Social Cohesion (RISC) Rustenburg, South Africa, 30 November 2011

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Koen Stroeken

Steven Robins, Letters of Stone: From Nazi Germany to South Africa (Cape Town: Penguin Random House, 2016), 314 pp. Paperback, $16.15. ISBN 9781776090242.

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Sherran Clarence, Raphael de Kadt and Fabio Zoia

(Un)thinking Citizenship. Feminist Debates in Contemporary South Africa, edited by Amanda Gouws Sherran Clarence

Democracy and Exchange: Schumpeter, Galbraith, T.H. Marshall, Titmuss and Adam Smith by David Reisman Raphael de Kadt

The Making of Modern South Africa: Conquest, Apartheid, Democracy, by Nigel Worden Fabio Zoia

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Raphael de Kadt

Richard Turner was, and arguably remains, the most brilliant, original and intellectually arresting South African philosopher of the post Second World War era, if not of all time. The prematurity and nature of his assassination, conjoined to the difficulty in accessing much of his later work, also renders him one of the potentially and tragically most ‘forgotten’ figures in South Africa’s intellectual history.

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Editorial

Situating Screen Bodies

Brian Bergen-Aurand

This cover of Screen Bodies features a photograph by Collen Mfazwe entitled “Love Has No Gender, Race or Sexuality. Boitumelo and Collen. (August 2017).” Mfazwe lives in Benoni, Gauteng, South Africa, and is a photographer at the South African platform Inkanyiso (Zulu for “the one who brings light”). In “Love Has No Gender,” we find a summary of Mfazwe’s response to South Africa’s drastically high rate of violent crime against womxn, lesbians, and bisexual and trans folk, a long-running pattern of gender-based violence that she confronts in a series she has been developing since 2017 called Imizimba (Bodies).

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Alex Lichtenstein

This article considers the contribution of radical South African philosopher Rick Turner to theories of ‘workers’ control’. Turner’s philosophical work, especially his book, The Eye of the Needle (1972), posited the workplace as a fundamental site of ‘participatory democracy’ and a space for the potential radical transformation of South African society. During the early 1970s, Turner’s philosophical writings, teaching at the University of Natal, and political activism in Durban helped galvanise a cohort of radical white students who joined in support of protesting black workers in the 1973 Durban mass strikes. The confluence of Turner’s ideas about workers’ control, the students’ activism, and the collective action of the black working class gave South Africa’s labour movement a radically democratic, shop-floor orientation that deserves a revival in the new South Africa.

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Lasse Thomassen

South Africa’s Insurgent Citizens: On Dissent and the Possibility of Politics, by Julian Brown. London: Zed Books, 2015. ISBN 9781783602971.

Freedom Is Power: Liberty through Political Representation, by Lawrence Hamilton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. ISBN 9781107660342.