How do political parties shape urban movements in developing countries? This paper examines struggles for urban inclusion in two informal settlements within Johannesburg: Thembelihle and Motsoaledi. I argue that the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), fragmented and weakened these movements through four mechanisms: place-specific governance, electoral encouragement, co-optation, and fostering loyalty. Both responding to and prompting these mechanisms, activists in the two areas pursued divergent politics. Whereas activists in Thembelihle emphasized working-class solidarity and citywide opposition to the ANC, activists in Motsoaledi emphasized neighborhood solidarity and presented a narrower challenge to the ANC. Residents in both areas secured material concessions, but they failed to produce a unified and citywide movement. The two examples underscore the difficulty of building movements for urban inclusion when a single political party dominates civil society.
Fragmenting Urban Movements: Political Parties and Popular Resistance in Johannesburg’s Informal Settlements
Marcel Paret is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Utah, and Senior Research Associate in the Center for Social Change at the University of Johannesburg. He is author of Fractured Militancy: Precarious Resistance in South Africa after Racial Inclusion (Cornell University Press, 2022).
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Marcel Paret; Fragmenting Urban Movements: Political Parties and Popular Resistance in Johannesburg’s Informal Settlements. Sociology of Development 1 September 2022; 8 (3): 294–317. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/sod.2021.0027
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