Evil and violence : illiberal beliefs in South Africa’s liberal democracy

Loubser, Reinet (2015-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis examines beliefs regarding spiritual conceptions of evil among South Africans and the role that such attitudes may play in outbreaks of public and other forms of violence. In examining these illiberal attitudes and consequent violence, the thesis contributes to the discourse on democratic consolidation in South Africa. It is argued that illiberal values – such as the belief in evil as a literal force which may be countered with violence - present a challenge to the country‟s liberal democratic system of governance. The thesis is both quantitative and qualitative in nature. It includes a longitudinal analysis of the secondary data of the World Values Survey. The latter is used for two purposes: to measure the extent of beliefs in evil among South Africans and to find predictors for these beliefs. Quantitative analysis revealed that the beliefs in evil is widespread in South Africa and that over half the population may believe that violence can be used to rid communities of persons deemed evil. However, despite an exhaustive quantitative analysis of independent variables – including demographic, socio-economic and attitudinal factors as well as trust and tolerance, locus of control and religiosity - no definitive predictors of the attitudes regarding evil could be found. It is concluded that the beliefs in question are so universal and entrenched in South Africa that they cannot be associated with any particular demographic or other group. In the absence of quantitative findings, the thesis turns to qualitative analysis to explain the widespread nature of illiberal beliefs in South Africa. The thesis examines the country‟s serious problems with crime and violence. It also posits that South Africa has experienced a decivilisation process in which liberal values have to compete with the absolute individualism of an Hobbesian state of nature.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis ondersoek geloof in spirituele konsepsies van onheil onder Suid-Afrikaners en die rol wat sulke oortuigings kan speel in die uitbreek van openbare en ander soort geweld. Deur hierdie illiberale houdings en gevolglike geweld te ondersoek, maak die tesis „n bydrae tot die diskoers oor demokratiese konsolidasie in Suid-Afrika. Daar word geargumenteer dat illiberale waardes – soos die geloof in bose magte as „n letterlike verskynsel wat met geweld gekonfronteer mag word – „n uitdaging aan die land se liberale demokratiese regeerstelsel bied. Die tesis is beide kwantitatief en kwalitatief van aard. Dit sluit „n longitudinale analiese van die sekondêre data van die “World Values Survey” in. Laasgenoemde is gebruik te bereiking van twee doelwitte: om die omvang van die geloof in onheil onder Suid-Afrikaners te bepaal en om voorspellende onafhanklike veranderlikes vir hierdie oortuigings te vind. Kwantitatiewe analiese het bevind dat die geloof in onheil baie algemeen in Suid-Afrika voorkom en dat meer as die helfde van die bevolking glo dat geweld gebruik kan word om van sogenaamde bose persone in die gemeenskap ontslae te raak. Ten spyte van „n deeglike kwantitatiewe analiese van onafhanklike veranderlikes – insluitende demografiese, sosio-ekonomiese en houdings- faktore asook vertroue en verdraagsaamheid, “locus of control” en godsdienstelikheid – kon geen voorspellende veranderlikes vir die geloof in onheil gevind word nie. Die gevolgtrekking is dat die relevante oortuigings so sterk en universiëel voorkom in Suid-Afrika, dat dit nie met een spesifieke demografiese of ander soort groep geassosieer kan word nie. In die afwesigheid van kwantitatiewe bevindings, word kwalitatiewe analiese gebruik om te verduidelik hoekom illiberale geloofsoortuigings so algemeen in Suid-Afrika voorkom. Die tesis ondersoek die land se ernstige probleme met misdaad en geweld en argumenteer dat Suid-Afrika „n proses van “decivilisation” ondervind waarin liberale waardes met die absolute individualisme van „n Hobbesiaanse “state of nature” moet kompeteer.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/97829
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