In This Review

Transformation and Trouble: Crime, Justice, and Participation in Democratic South Africa
Transformation and Trouble: Crime, Justice, and Participation in Democratic South Africa
By Diana Gordon
University of Michigan Press, 2006, 400 pp.

Since the end of apartheid, South Africa has had a well-established reputation for unusually high crime rates and expedient policing. Gordon's ambitious book offers both a historically grounded discussion of the criminal justice system in contemporary South Africa and a sophisticated plea for a more participatory and empowering approach to law and order. She shows that the postapartheid problems with crime have deep historical roots in a country with a long tradition of state-sponsored violence. The book's most interesting pages focus on the country's attempts to transform a legal system designed to uphold the regime's racial policies into an impartial, effective, and democratically responsive one, even as the country was hit by a crime wave that undermined its domestic legitimacy and international credibility. Gordon is disappointed by the failure of the current regime to more aggressively democratize the legal system, even as she confesses that the government was responding to popular pressures when it launched an aggressive law-and-order campaign to fight the crime wave.