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Title: National identity and economic development : the Workplace Challenge project in the South African plastics industry
Author: Dickinson, David George
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2001
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This thesis investigates the role of national identity in economic development in the context of post-apartheid South Africa. It draws on research carried out during 1997-1998 on a supply-side project in the plastics industry - the Workplace Challenge. The key empirical sections of the thesis are formed by in-depth case-studies of two factories which implemented the Workplace Challenge. This is linked to industry-level pressures and analysis of national-level discourses to illustrate how macro-level processes are reflected in micro contexts. After an introductory chapter, the research question is framed, in Chapter Two, by means of an interdisciplinary review of theories of nationalism, identity (particularly social identity theory), and economic development. It is suggested that the existence of a superordinate-level identity - such as that held by citizens of a 'new' South Africa - provides a potential resource, in the form of unity and motivation, that can be brought to bear in the process of economic development. Chapter Three examines the methodology used to investigate this research question. Chapter Four considers the national context of post-apartheid South Africa. Particular attention is paid to the national-building project undertaken since the democratic elections of 1994, the government's economic development strategy, and the main institutions of labour and capital. The Workplace Challenge project, which aims to raise productivity by improving shopfloor relations, is introduced in Chapter Five along with a description of the plastics industry where the project was implemented. Chapters Six and Seven present detailed case studies on the progress of the Workplace Challenge in two East Rand plastics factories. Background on the factories, the initial views of management and workers, and key developments during the year of implementation are outlined. An analysis of these developments is then undertaken. Chapter Eight provides a conclusion. Drawing from the research undertaken, it is argued that the new national identity in South Africa has provided resources for processes of economic change in micro-level institutions. However, given the constructed nature of this new identity, this resource can only be mobilised on a sustainable basis if change is aligned with shared symbolic understandings and an acceptance that resources are equitably distributed by all those subscribing to the new identity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Business and economics ; national identity ; economic development ; South Africa ; plastics industry ; Workplace Challenge ; post-apartheid