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Global South Powers in Transition

A Comparative Analysis of Mexico and South Africa


Edited By Deon Geldenhuys and Humberto González

Employing a novel collaborative transnational methodology, this ground-breaking book presents the first comprehensive and systematic comparison of Mexico and South Africa. Although geographically, historically and diplomatically far apart, Mexico and South Africa are ambitious and influential powers in the Global South and also experience wide-ranging domestic transitions. A binational team of 26 researchers from the two countries, all specialists in their respective disciplines, probe the transitions that Mexico and South Africa are undergoing in areas such as socio-cultural diversity, domestic politics, economic development, labour dynamics, social and territorial inequality, food security, crime and violence, and foreign relations. The detailed country studies allow the authors to identify striking similarities but also profound differences between the two societies. In so doing, the book helps to explain Mexico and South Africa to each other but also to the world at large.

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CHAPTER 4 Labour dynamics and insertion in the global economy



Labour dynamics and insertion in the global economy

General introduction

Graciela Bensusán-Areous and Andries Bezuidenhout

In transition theory, organised labour is considered to be an important part of civil society that can contribute to the consolidation of democracy. Trade unions can, under certain conditions, counter “elite pacting” and check authoritarian drift in emerging democracies. By elite pacting we refer to the overlapping interest of political and business elites which may maintain some form of democratic rule, but which may also slip back into forms of authoritarianism. However, the ability of trade unions to form a check on authoritarianism depends on their strategies, alliances and the forms of leverage or power available to them to impact on a national scale (Adler and Webster 1995; Webster and Adler 1999; Beckman et al. 2010).

Following the collapse of state socialism in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the transition from authoritarian rule to democracy has been described as a “double” or a “dual” transition, which refers to a simultaneous process of political democratisation and economic liberalisation (Przeworski 1991). The hypothesis that guides our analysis of labour dynamics in Mexico and South Africa is that the sequence of this dual transition (which came first?), the nature of the political transition towards democracy (with or without a rupture with the previous regime, and the ideology of the new governments), and the form of insertion into globalisation (through international subcontracting or exports of...

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