The Idea of the ANC

By Anthony Butler

The Idea of the ANC takes a look at how conception of power, promoting unity, and a commitment to human liberation have in the past shaped politics in [South Africa] and the possible role they could play in guiding the leadership of the ANC’s responses to future challenges.… Be sure to get this exciting and very easy to read pocket book.”

LOOCHA Magazine (South Africa)

“…an insightful analysis of the potential long-term impact of core ANC concepts…”


“[A] sobering but measured account….In an accessible manner, synthesizing historiographies and thus ideas, the Ohio Short Histories…provide comprehensible introductions to the nature of South Africa's past, particulalry the role that the ANC have had in shaping the trajectory of the country's recent history.”

Kate Law, Journal of African History

The African National Congress (ANC) is Africa’s most famous liberation movement. It has recently celebrated its centenary, a milestone that has prompted partisans to detail a century of unparalleled achievement in the struggle against colonialism and racial discrimination. Critics paint a less flattering portrait of the historical ANC as a communist puppet, a moribund dinosaur, or an elitist political parasite. For such skeptics, the ANC—now in government for two decades—has betrayed South Africans rather than liberating them.

South Africans endure deep inequality and unemployment, violent community protests, murders of foreign residents, major policy blunders, an AIDS crisis, and deepening corruption. Inside the ANC there are episodes of open rebellion against the leadership, conflicts over the character of a postliberation movement, and debilitating battles for succession to the movement’s presidency. The ANC is nevertheless likely to remain the party of government for the foreseeable future.

This remarkable book explores how ANC intellectuals and leaders interpret the historical project of their movement. It investigates three interlocking ideas: a conception of power, a responsibility for promoting unity, and a commitment to human liberation. Anthony Butler explores how these notions have shaped South African politics in the past and how they will inform ANC leaders’ responses to the challenges of the future.

Anthony Butler is Professor of Political Studies at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Previously, he was Chair in Political Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand and a Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge. Butler was educated at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. He writes a weekly column for Johannesburg’s Business Day newspaper and is the author or editor of six other books, including Cyril Ramaphosa and Contemporary South Africa.

Order a print copy

Paperback · $11.96 · Add to Cart

Retail price: $14.95 · Save 20% ($11.96)

Find at a local bookstore


Download an electronic copy

Amazon Kindle Store Barnes & Noble NOOK Google Play iBooks Store

Availability and price vary according to vendor.

Share    Facebook icon  Email icon


Desk Copy Examination Copy Review Copy

Permission to reprint
Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center

Downloads & Links

External Link


In Series

Ohio Short Histories of Africa

Related Subjects

African History · African Studies · South Africa · Africa



Retail price: $14.95, T.
Release date: Jul. 2013
148 pages · 4¼ × 7 in.
Rights:World except SADC


Release date: Jul. 2013
Rights:World except SADC