Motsepe’s Gift: or how Philanthropy serves Capitalism in South Africa

Cobbett, Elizabeth and Friesen, Elizabeth (2014) Motsepe’s Gift: or how Philanthropy serves Capitalism in South Africa. In: Selected Themes in African Studies: Political Conflict and Stability. Springer, Cham, pp. 113-124. ISBN 978-3-319-06001-9

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The recent decision by South Africa’s mining magnate Patrice Motsepe to donate half of his wealth to charity is an opportune moment to examine the relationship between capitalism and philanthropy. It is capitalists who are philanthropic. Philanthropy presents a more humane face of capitalism and conceals its penchant for avaricious accumulation. It is particularly germane to ask questions about this relationship within the context of South Africa where the gap between wealth and poverty is widening. Power, for Fernand Braudel, is the product of bringing together the state and capitalism into a common project of development. It is here, at this point of common interest between capitalists and the state, where the unmistakable characteristic of ‘real’ capitalism exists, to gain monopolistic control of the most profitable sectors of the economy. In the case of South Africa, this is the minerals–energy complex. Firstly, we argue that social order in South Africa has kept a small powerful capital class in place while allowing a new black elite to increase its ranks. This integration of blacks has not changed the distribution of wealth in the country; rather it reflects broader patterns of capital accumulation by a minority and growing wealth disparity. Next, we claim that the tradition of philanthropy, employed by magnates such as Motsepe, is considered an appropriate response to growing social economic and political inequalities. The World Economic Forum provides a site to reap the benefits of capitalist success while receiving absolution for capitalist accumulation by means of donation.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: Elizabeth Cobbett is lecturer of international relations and international political economy at the University of East Anglia since 2013. Elizabeth completed her Ph.D. at Carleton University, Ottawa (2012) and her MPPPA (2006) and undergraduate studies at Concordia University, Montreal. Her current research project, Growth of African Financial Networks, focuses on contemporary developments in banking and finance within Africa. More specifically, her work examines the different ways in which global finance seeks profitable opportunities within localized social structures.
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Political, Social and International Studies
Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Critical Global Politics
Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2013 15:02
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 10:33

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