Beyond technocracy : The role of the state in rural development in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

Hebinck†, Paul; Smith, Lothar; Aliber, Michael


Drawing on longitudinal research engagement with villages and government projects in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, we argue the case for a strong revamp of government policies on rural development. Thereby we suggest that the legitimacy of ascribing to policy a notion of “post-apartheid” is largely redundant as current development policies in rural South Africa have not changed sufficiently. Notably the underlying rationale behind government interventions and associated governance mechanisms remains highly technocratic. This represents a strong continuity in the role of the state and its quest to restructure and modernise the rural economy. We question the efficacy of such a technocratic approach when it seems so disconnected from the socio-economically fluid and spatially heterogeneous spaces created by rural populations who, in the process of defining and pursuing their livelihood goals in relation to particular identities, and ideals around notions of modernity, produce livelihood constructions and identities that are seldom confined to the village or the agricultural sector alone.