industrial22The Fourth Industrial Revolution: A sociological critique

Edited by Trevor Ngwane and Malehoko Tshoaedi

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One of the chief concerns regarding the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies is that they are owned and monopolised by advanced capitalist countries. Both between countries and within countries we find ‘the digital divide’. Most of humanity, having little or no access to widespread means of communication and access to information via the internet, will not benefit from the 4IR. 

The promotion and adoption of these technologies without a plan to address this will lead to a more unequal world. The talk about people changing careers or learning new skills in the face of technologically driven job losses does not consider the differential skills and potentialities among people. Importantly, countries are told to do everything in their power not to be left behind by the 4IR. They are told that they must adopt these technologies come what may, without properly assessing country-specific and class-specific implications, threats and needs.

Is there any guarantee that agreeing to and adoption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies by, say, African countries, will not have the same result – leaving them exploited and dominated by those who wield and own the new technologies?

Trevor Ngwane is a Senior Lecturer of Sociology and the Director of the Centre for Sociological Research and Practice at the University of Johannesburg. As a scholar activist he spent two decades working for labour, community and social movements. His book is Amakomiti: Grassroots Democracy in South African Shack Settlements (Jacana Media 2021). He has co-edited a book with Immanuel Ness and Luke Sinwell titled Urban Revolt: State Power and the Rise of People’s Movements in the Global South (Wits University Press, 2017). He is the current president of the South African Sociological Association.

Malehoko Tshoaedi is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg. She holds a PhD in Political Science and Gender Studies from the University of Leiden, the Netherlands. She is the co-editor (with Andries Bezuidenhout) of Labour Beyond Cosatu: Mapping the Rupture in South Africa’s Labour Landscape (Wits University Press, 2017). She is the co-editor (with Sakhela Buhlungu) of COSATU’s Contested Legacy: South African Trade Unions in the Second Decade of Democracy (HSRC Press, 2012).

AmakomitiAmakomiti: Grassroots Democracy in South African Shack Settlements

Trevor Ngwane

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Can people who live in shacks and favelas teach us anything about democracy? About how to govern society in a way that is inclusive, participatory and addresses popular needs? This book argues that they can.

In a study conducted in dozens of South Africa's shack settlements, where more than 9 million people live, Trevor Ngwane finds thriving shack dwellers’ committees that govern local life are responsive to popular needs and provide a voice for the community. These committees, 'amakomiti', organise the provision of basic services such as water, sanitation, public works and crime prevention especially during settlement establishment.

Amakomiti argues that, contrary to common perception, shack dwellers an essential part of the urban population, whose political agency must be recognised and respected. In a world searching for democratic alternatives that serve the many and not the few, it is to the shack dwellers, rather than those in political power, that we should turn.

‘One of the most exciting books that I’ve read in a long time ... Ngwane unveils a defiant working-class world with rich traditions of resistance and a genius for self-organization’– Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums

Trevor Ngwane  is a scholar activist who has over the years devoted as much time to academic work as to community and political activism.He previously worked as a sociology lecturer at Wits University where he helped found the Wits Workers' School, to teach literacy to the campus cleaners and gardeners. He was the National Education Officer for the Transport & General Workers Union of the Congress of South African Trade Unions. In 1995 he was elected Ward Councillor for Pimville Zone 5 and 7, Soweto, on an African National Congress ticket. In 1999 he was expelled by the ANC for opposing the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality's privatisation of municipal services. In 2001, he helped found the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee and then the Anti-Privatisation Forum in 2002, which both campaign against the privatisation of public services. He is the Director of the Centre for Sociological Research and Practice at the University of Johannesburg. 

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