Conclusion: The Power of Ideas

  • Heidi Brooks
Part of the The Theories, Concepts and Practices of Democracy book series (PSTCD)


The conclusion ties together the book’s key findings, providing some conclusive comments about participatory democracy as a broader trajectory of ANC democratic thought. It reflects on the continued importance of ideas; the prolonged shaping of South Africa’s democratic landscape by its movement history; and the power of the ideas that this generated about the role of the people in democracy. It reflects again on the roots of the contemporary democratic crisis and landscape of popular protest, as well as early indicators of democratic deficit prior to 1994. It reiterates the pivotal role that people’s power played in shaping expectations. However, despite its varied intellectual heritage and lack of conceptual coherence, people’s power was also underpinned by a teleological notion of participation and a unitary notion of democracy. The chapter draws together the argument that the participatory discourse emerging from the ANC remains rooted in past traditions which have failed to reconcile the underlying tension between political control from above and popular initiative from below. In the battle of ideas in the ANC about popular power, it is the notion of vanguardism that has become dominant, tilting the balance of ideas toward a notion of participation as partnership for a hegemonic unity.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heidi Brooks
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Political and International StudiesIIE MSAJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.Centre for Social ChangeUniversity of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa

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