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Participation and Passive Revolution: The Reproduction of Neoliberal Water Governance Mechanisms in Durban, South Africa

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Abstract:  This article demonstrates that Gramsci's concept of passive revolution can be utilised to help unearth some of the contradictions of participatory development within neoliberal governance systems in the global South. I argue that some approaches to “participation” within neoliberal governance systems can, in part, be understood as moments within a protracted process of passive revolution. The argument is traced through eThekwini municipality's Community Participation Programme and the related extension of Free Basic Water (FBW). This article contributes to existing scholarship by demonstrating how a Gramscian analysis is indispensable to understanding the way in which state–civil society relations are conceived in participatory development strategies and the implications this might have for radical social change. I argue that a Gramscian approach compels us to reconsider current understandings of state–civil society relations so that we might overcome the impasse of passive revolution and move towards a more progressive form of politics.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, Surrey, UK;

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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