BOOK REVIEWS: COMPARATIVE POLITICS
Transformation and Trouble: Crime, Justice, and Participation in Democratic South Africa
a1 University of California–San Diego
Africa. By Diana Gordon. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2006. 400p. $78.00 cloth, $28.95 paper.
When the African National Congress (ANC) took power in South Africa after the first open elections in 1994, the goals of its leaders were ambitious: In addition to securing liberal rights and institutions, the party sought to address the socioeconomic needs of an impoverished population and deepen mass participation in the public sphere. In its own words, it pursued transformation: not just the transition to democracy, but the deepening and enriching of democracy that comes with true consolidation. Diana Gordon's magisterial book tracks the country's progress in one aspect of transformation: the reform of the criminal justice system. As Gordon suggests, the criminal justice system was an obvious institution to tackle: The police and courts had been the frontline enforcers of apartheid's laws. Furthermore, geared around defending the racial hierarchy instead of crime control, the existing system struggled mightily to deal with epic levels of violent crime besieging the new democracy. Only through the complete reform of these institutions could the country achieve democratic consolidation and secure the peace. In assessing South Africa's successes and failures in pursuing justice-system reform, the author makes important contributions to various literatures, including the study of criminal justice, deliberative democracy, democratization, and South African politics.