“Paret’s book is a theoretically sophisticated and empirically rich ethnography of social movements in post-apartheid South Africa. He shows with great subtlety and empathy how marginalized black communities are able, under conditions of the passive revolution of capital, to protest and why their resistance remains fragmented and weak. A compelling read.”

Partha Chatterjee, Columbia University, author of Politics of the Governed and Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World

“Marcel Paret assembles four exciting community studies in a theoretical tour de force to explore the paradoxes of post-apartheid South Africa—how racial inclusion has undermined the working class unity and militancy that spear-headed the anti-apartheid movement. A must-read for anyone interested in the dynamics of postcoloniality.”

Michael Burawoy, University of California-Berkeley, author of Manufacturing Consent and The Extended Case Method

Bringing detailed ethnographic work into conversation with larger theoretical debates, Fractured Militancy offers important insights into post-apartheid South Africa’s ‘service delivery’ protests. Marcel Paret’s thoughtful analysis of the complicated interactions between local activism, party loyalties, and class identities in poor neighborhoods around Johannesburg will resonate across the global South, and makes an important contribution to discussions of grassroots movements in the 21st century.”

Gay Seidman, University of Wisconsin-Madison, author of Manufacturing Militance and Beyond the Boycott

Fractured Militancy is a beautifully written, extremely accessible, and very insightful telescope into the multi-layered and complicated terrain of South Africa’s recent social protests. Set against the historic arc of South Africa’s monumental transition from apartheid to democracy and racial inclusion, Paret masterfully toggles between theorists drawing from the global North and South and grounded empirical evidence from the field to explain how and why South Africa’s popular resistance efforts failed to instill a just and sustained transformation and, in fact, reinforced capitalist hegemony. For anyone interested in understanding the limits and possibilities of the recent decades of social and welfare-oriented Neoliberalism, this book is a must-read.”

Rina Agarwala, Johns Hopkins University, author of Informal Labor, Formal Politics and Dignifying Discontent in India.

Fractured Militancy is clearly written, theoretically sophisticated, and methodologically sound, bringing new information and a new interpretation to the well-trodden topic of working-class politics.”

Edward Webster, University of the Witwatersrand, coauthor of Grounding Globalization

“This is a timely and engaging text. Marcel Paret effectively engages broader theorizing about postcolonial struggles, class mobilization, opportunities for economic transformation, and the challenges faced by social movements, contributing to each by illuminating the lessons from South Africa.”

Elke Zuern, Sarah Lawrence College, author of The Politics of Necessity

Fractured Militancy is an engaging analysis of the proliferation and fragmentation of struggles for liberation in South Africa after the democratic transition. It is a timely book and a pleasure to read.”

Andy Clarno, University of Illinois at Chicago, author of Neoliberal Apartheid

Fractured Militancy: Precarious Resistance in South Africa after Racial Inclusion

(ILR/Cornell University Press, 2022)

Cornell University Press / Amazon / Google

Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with activists, Fractured Militancy tells the story of postapartheid South Africa from the perspective of Johannesburg’s impoverished urban Black neighborhoods. Nearly three decades after South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy, widespread protests and xenophobic attacks suggest that not all is well in the once-celebrated “rainbow nation.”

Marcel Paret traces rising protests back to the process of democratization and racial inclusion. This process dangled the possibility of change but preserved racial inequality and economic insecurity, prompting residents to use militant protests to express their deep sense of betrayal and to demand recognition and community development. Underscoring remarkable parallels to movements such as Black Lives Matter in the United States, this account attests to an ongoing struggle for Black liberation in the wake of formal racial inclusion.

Rather than unified resistance, however, class struggles within the process of racial inclusion produced a fractured militancy. Revealing the complicated truth behind the celebrated “success” of South African democratization, Paret uncovers a society divided by wealth, urban geography, nationality, employment, and political views. Fractured Militancy warns of the threat that capitalism and elite class struggles present to social movements and racial justice everywhere.

Reviews of Fractured Militancy

Africa is a Country – “The Party Question,” by Benjamin H. Bradlow

“In his extremely readable, deeply researched, and theoretically thoughtful book, Paret brings to life South Africa’s peculiar brew of upheaval in the streets and stability at the ballot box. The book is a landmark contribution to the contemporary study of urban protest and democracy in South Africa and across the globe.”

International Sociology – by Ran Greenstein

“Fractured Militancy makes an essential contribution to our understanding of post-apartheid South Africa …”

Sociology of Race and Ethnicity – Korey Tillman

“Overall, those interested in social movements, political economy, or methodologically rigorous qualitative work, will find Fractured Militancy an engaging and fruitful read.”

More information about Fractured Militancy

Interview with Marcel Paret about the book and post-apartheid South Africa

Salt Lake City book launch – May 6, 2022


Southern Resistance in Critical Perspective: The Politics of Protest in South Africa’s Contentious Democracy

Edited by Marcel Paret, Carin Runciman, and Luke Sinwell

From the Arab Uprising, to anti-austerity protests in Europe and the US Occupy Movement, to uprisings in Brazil and Turkey, resistance from below is flourishing. Whereas analysts have tended to look North in their analysis of the recent global protest wave, this volume develops a Southern perspective through a deep engagement with the case of South Africa, which has experienced widespread popular resistance for more than a decade. Combining critical theoretical perspectives with extensive qualitative fieldwork and rich case studies, Southern Resistance in Critical Perspective situates South Africa’s contentious democracy in relation to both the economic insecurity of contemporary global capitalism and the constantly shifting political terrain of post-apartheid nationalism. The analysis integrates worker, community and political party organizing into a broader narrative of resistance, bridging historical divisions between social movement studies, labor studies and political sociology.

Routledge // Amazon // Google

Review in Journal of World-Systems Research

Book launch in Johannesburg – May 18, 2017
Video 1: Presentations
Video 2: Q & A
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A related news article by co-editor Carin Runciman
South African protesters echo a global cry: democracy isn’t making people’s lives better


Building Citizenship From Below: Precarity, Migration, and Agency

Edited by Marcel Paret and Shannon Gleeson

Focusing on what can be referred to as the ‘precarity-agency-migration nexus’, this volume leverages the political, economic, and social dynamics of migration to better understand both deepening inequality and popular resistance. Drawing on rich ethnographic and interview-based studies of the United States and Latin America, the authors show how migrants are navigating and challenging conditions of insecurity and structures of power. Detailed case studies illuminate collective survival strategies along the migrant trail, efforts by nannies and dairy workers in the northeast United States to assert dignity and avoid deportation, strategies of reintegration used by deportees in Guatemala and Mexico, and grassroots organizing and public protest in California. In doing so they reveal varied moments of agency without presenting an overly idyllic picture or presuming limitless potential for change. Anchoring the study of migration in the opposition between precarity and agency, the authors thus provide a new window into the continuously unfolding relationship between national borders, global capitalism, and human freedom.

Routledge // Amazon // Google

This book was originally published as a special issue of Citizenship Studies
Citizenship Studies special issue on “Building Citizenship from Below: Precarity, Migration, and Agency” (Volume 20, Issue 3-4)