Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

Socio-Economic Rights in South Africa
Symbols or Substance?

$41.99 (C)

Malcolm Langford, Stuart Wilson, Jackie Dugard, Sandra Liebenberg, Tshepo Madlingozi, Adam Habib, Ben Cousins, Ruth Hall, Peris Jones, Nyasha Chingore, Beth Goldblatt, Solange Rosa, Rachel Wynberg, David Fig, Kristina Bentley, Richard Calland, Liesl Gerntholtz, Jennifer MacLeod, Tara Polzer Ngwato, Zaheera Jinnah
View all contributors
  • Date Published: August 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107546226

$ 41.99 (C)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Hardback, eBook

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • The embrace of socio-economic rights in South Africa has featured prominently in scholarship on constitution making, legal jurisprudence, and social mobilization. But the development has attracted critics who claim that this turn to rights has not generated social transformation in practice. This book sets out to assess one part of the puzzle and asks what has been the role and impact of socio-economic strategies used by civil society actors. Focusing on a range of socio-economic rights and national trends in law and political economy, the book's authors show how socio-economic rights have influenced the development of civil society discourse and action. The evidence suggests that some strategies have achieved material and political impact but this is conditional on the nature of the claim, degree of mobilization and alliance building, and underlying constraints.

    • The first comprehensive study of the effects of socio-economic strategies in South Africa
    • Gives a diverse picture of post-apartheid social mobilisation
    • Provides numerous case studies and new evidence on impact and strategies
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    “South Africa long has been an inspiration to the world for its struggle against apartheid, peaceful transition to a multiracial democracy, and new constitution with a comprehensive declaration of rights interpreted by a distinguished Constitutional Court. Many have waited eagerly to see how the promise would be realized. Socio-Economic Rights in South Africa: Symbols or Substance? offers the most illuminating answers to date. With great theoretical sophistication and unparalleled empirical data, it charts the complex ways in which rights and social movements are mutually constitutive in the engagement with such diverse issues as land, health care, the delivery of water, sanitation and electricity, the environment, access to information, gender, and immigration. Everyone interested in understanding how struggles for socio-economic rights differ from the more familiar earlier contests over legal and political rights must read this book.”
    --Richard Abel Connell Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus and Distinguished Research Professor, University of California, Los Angeles, Author of Politics by Other Means: Law in the Struggle against Apartheid, 1980-94

    “This volume makes an extraordinary contribution to the increasingly sophisticated literature on socio-economic rights globally. Rooted in a deeply contextual approach to the conditions under which civil society engages the ideas, laws and institutions through which socio-economic resources are struggled for and produced, Socio-Economic Rights in South Africa: Symbols or Substance? offers important insights into the complexity of understanding and achieving these rights. The different contributions offer both insights into a vast range of different socio-economic resources – from land, water and housing to work, welfare and social security – yet the volume successfully roots these various resource struggles in the political economy of post-apartheid South Africa. At the same time the volume highlights a range of theoretical questions that are key to the task of untangling the interactions of structural conditions, institutional cultures and social forms of mobilization necessary to study and understand issues of capacity, causation and the possibility of alternative strategies that might be deployed in civil society to access these resources. Langford, Cousins, Dugard and Madlingozi must be congratulated on bringing together such a rich range of contributions that transform and deepen our understanding of socio-economic rights in South Africa and beyond.”
    --Heinz Klug, Evjue-Bascom Professor of Law, University of Wisconsin Law School

    “Dugard, Cousins, Langford, and Madlingozi – clear voices that understand the power and limitation of rights language – have edited a pioneering work that should both inspire and chastise the South African human rights movement. They insightfully show a state and civil society seduced by the medium of economic and social rights, and how rights-based strategies can be dynamic, but also vulnerable to capture by the status quo. One cannot but conclude that the South African laboratory proves that the rights discourse is not a path for total liberation from human privation.” --Makau Mutua, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Floyd H. & Hilda L. Hurst Faculty Scholar, SUNY Buffalo Law School, The State University of New York

    “Conceptually appealing, and theoretically innovative and provocative, this volume is an important, timely, and exciting contribution to the scholarly literature regarding the pursuit of social and economic rights in South Africa, and particularly the question whether the South African rights based approach serves as either a model to be emulated, or as a cautionary tale. The contributors raise the compelling question, namely, why the South African constitution, with its expansive incorporation of social and economic rights and so heralded internationally, has failed to generate the “social transformation” embedded in this incorporation. Utilising a comparative lens, with an impressive methodology and a comprehensive interdisciplinary bibliography, the contributors highlight the extent to which civil society actors with their new armoury of socio-economic rights strategies and tactics have been able to close the dissonance between the constitutional promise and empirical reality.” -Penelope Andrews, President and Dean, Albany Law School

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107546226
    • length: 488 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 25 mm
    • weight: 0.65kg
    • contains: 10 b/w illus. 19 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: civil society and rights Malcolm Langford
    Part I. Context and Contestation:
    2. Constitutional jurisprudence: the first and second waves Stuart Wilson and Jackie Dugard
    3. Socio-economic rights beyond the public/private law divide Sandra Liebenberg
    4. Post-apartheid social movements and legal mobilisation Tshepo Madlingozi
    5. Political power: social pacting, human rights and the development agenda Adam Habib
    Part II. Thematic Areas:
    6. Rural land tenure: the potential and limits of rights-based approaches Ben Cousins and Ruth Hall
    7. Housing rights litigation: Grootboom and beyond Malcolm Langford
    8. Health rights: politics, places and the need for 'sites for rights' Peris Jones and Nyasha Chingore
    9. Social security rights: campaigns and courts Beth Goldblatt and Solange Rosa
    10. Urban basic services: rights, reality and resistance Jackie Dugard
    11. Realising environmental rights: civic action, leverage, and litigation Rachel Wynberg and David Fig
    12. Access to information and socio-economic rights: a theory of change in practice Kristina Bentley and Richard Calland
    13. Gender and socio-economic rights: the case of gender-based violence and health Liesl Gerntholtz and Jennifer MacLeod
    14. Migrants and mobilisation around socio-economic rights Tara Polzer Ngwato and Zaheera Jinnah
    15. Concluding perspectives Malcolm Langford, Jackie Dugard, Tshepo Madlingozi and Ben Cousins.

  • Editors

    Malcolm Langford, Universitetet i Oslo
    Malcolm Langford is a Research Fellow at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Oslo, and Director of the Centre's Socio-Economic Rights Programme. He leads a number of international research networks, is an adviser to different UN agencies, governments and NGOs, and has been a visiting fellow and professor at a number of universities. He has published widely on human rights issues in law, economics and development as well as political science. His books include The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, with M. Craven (2013); The MDGs and Human Rights: Past, Present and Future, edited with A. Sumner and A. E. Yamin Russell (2013); and Social Rights Jurisprudence: Emerging Trends in International and Comparative Law (2008).

    Ben Cousins, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
    Ben Cousins holds a DST/NRF Research Chair and is based at the Institute of Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies in the School of Government, University of the Western Cape, which he founded in 1995. He has worked in agricultural training and extension in the UK, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, and undertaken research on land tenure, agriculture, and land and agrarian reform in Zimbabwe and South Africa. His books include At the Crossroads: Land and Agrarian Reform in South Africa into the 21st Century (edited, 2000) and Land, Power and Custom: Controversies Generated by South Africa's Communal Land Rights Act (co-edited with Aninka Claassens, 2008).

    Jackie Dugard, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
    Jackie Dugard is Executive Director of the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa, which she co-founded in January 2010. She is also a Visiting Senior Fellow at the School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand. Dugard's areas of expertise are socio-economic rights, socio-legal studies, and access to basic services and justice for the poor. She has published widely on the role of law in affecting socio-economic change, as well as on basic services-related rights and access to courts.

    Tshepo Madlingozi, University of Pretoria
    Tshepo Madlingozi is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria. He is a member of the editorial committee of the African Human Rights Law Journal, a member of the management committee of the Pretoria University Law Press and a member of the Board of Trustees of several NGOs. He has undertaken consultancy work for various intergovernmental institutions and NGOs including the AU Pan-African Parliament and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. He has published in journals such as the Journal of Law and Society and the Journal of Human Rights Practice.


    Malcolm Langford, Stuart Wilson, Jackie Dugard, Sandra Liebenberg, Tshepo Madlingozi, Adam Habib, Ben Cousins, Ruth Hall, Peris Jones, Nyasha Chingore, Beth Goldblatt, Solange Rosa, Rachel Wynberg, David Fig, Kristina Bentley, Richard Calland, Liesl Gerntholtz, Jennifer MacLeod, Tara Polzer Ngwato, Zaheera Jinnah

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.