Friends and family: Social cohesion in South Africa

Ivor Chipkin, Bongani Ngqulunga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


This article considers the notion of social cohesion and reviews the degree to which South Africa after apartheid coheres as a society. We consider social cohesion as an affective bond between citizens. Therefore our assessment must do more than review the political interests, alliances, ideology and discourses that give stability to the public domain. It also examines those institutions and relations that function chiefly on the basis of affect: friendships, relationships and the family. In this context, 'social capital' theory has significant appeal, despite its problems, by examining social cohesion in relation to the performance of state institutions. It suggests that a crisis in the social fabric will be felt, not so much in the political arena, but more broadly in the field of development. Employing this idea, we argue that the key measure of social cohesion in South Africa is the function of state bodies, rather than the stability of the political arena.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-76
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Southern African Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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