25 August 2014

South Africa: Social Cohesion, Nation-Building and the Likelihood of Success


A recent study and seminar by the Mapungubwe Institute on the need to achieve greater "social cohesion" leads J. BROOKS SPECTOR to contemplate what social cohesion really means in today's world.

The Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) recently held a conference to its new study on the vexed question - for South Africans, at least - of something called "social cohesion." This institute was created as a kind of exile home for policy wonks and members of a commentariat now out of power following the collapse of the Mbeki presidency. The session, "Nation Formation and Social Cohesion: an enquiry into the hopes and aspirations of South Africans", was an effort to report back on a major study on the requisites for national social cohesion and why South Africans either do - or don't - feel connected together as a nation, built on numerous interviews with a wide range of South Africans from across the nation.

Project leader Andries Oliphant set a tone for the discussions in citing 19th century Italian painter/writer/statesman Massimo d'Azeglio, a man who had worked for Italian unification under the Piedmontese monarchy, "Now that we have made Italy, we must make Italians." In essence, d'Azeglio and...

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