In This Review

Overcoming Intolerance in South Africa: Experiments in Democratic Persuasion
Overcoming Intolerance in South Africa: Experiments in Democratic Persuasion
By James L. Gibson and Amanda Gouws
Cambridge University Press, 2002, 278 pp

Commentators since the late 1980s have identified political intolerance as a serious obstacle to successful democratization in South Africa. This study tackles the issue as a problem in social psychology, using interview data from a broad 1996-97 survey. It confirms that intolerance is widespread: about two-thirds of South Africans favor banning the group they dislike the most, and almost three-fourths would prohibit that group from demonstrating -- even when their most disliked group is a mainstream political party. Experimental questions show that tolerant attitudes are held less strongly than intolerant ones, especially among Africans. Most Africans are not influenced to modify their hard-line views even by Constitutional Court judgments that promote civil liberties. To lower intolerance levels significantly, the study indicates that most South Africans must experience diminishing perceptions that their physical security is under threat from their "enemies." Also, local and national elites must make concerted efforts to build a public commitment to the full spectrum of democratic values: multipartyism, the rule of law, and a prioritization of individual liberty over social order.¶