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August 3, 2009

the view from South Africa

(Washington, DC) Xolela Mangu, a distinguished South African social scientist and columnist, joined our conference last week on the Obama civic agenda. In his national column, he reflects on "service" (with its hints of moral obligation, on one side, and dependency on the other) versus civic empowerment:

Interestingly, the masthead editorial in the same edition of the same newspaper (The Weekender) echoes the same themes. Commenting on recent grassroots protests in South Africa, The Weekender says:

"Community service" is not the same thing as "service delivery." The former usually involves amateurs who are unpaid or given small stipends; the latter, agencies and professionals. Yet it is no coincidence that the two phrases share a word. Their shared problem is a conception of people as needy clients, not as active agents. In both the United States and South Africa, now that left-of-center governments hold power, there is a quiet struggle underway between "service" and civic agency.

August 3, 2009 7:13 AM | category: Barack Obama , democratic reform overseas | Comments


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