Transformation and Trouble

Crime, Justice and Participation in Democratic South Africa
Diana Gordon
Explores controversial efforts to reform the criminal justice system in post-apartheid South Africa


Crime is one of the major challenges to any new democracy. Violence often increases after the lifting of authoritarian control, or in the aftermath of regime change. But how can a fledgling democracy fight crime without violating the fragile rights of its citizens? In Transformation and Trouble, accomplished theorist and criminal justice scholar Diana Gordon critically examines South Africa's efforts to strike the perilous balance between democratic participation and social control.

South Africa has made great progress in pursuing the Western ideals of participatory justice and due process. Yet Gordon finds that popular concerns about crime have fostered the growth of a punitive criminal justice system that undermines the country's rights-oriented political culture. Transformation and Trouble calls for South Africa to reaffirm its commitment to public empowerment by reforming its criminal justice system—an approach, she argues, that would strengthen the country's new democracy.

Diana Gordon is Professor Emerita of Political Science and Senior Research Scholar, City University of New York.

Praise / Awards

  • "An eloquent, critical, but ultimately optimistic, analysis of the democratization of crime and justice in post-apartheid South Africa."
    —Bill Dixon, School of Criminology, Education, Sociology and Social Work, Keele University

  • "A must read for understanding contemporary South Africa's agonizing dilemmas as it struggles to reconcile crime control with democratic values."
    —Jerome H. Skolnick, New York University School of Law

  • "Gordon's vast experience with criminal justice illuminates her cautionary tale of the search for a new way in South Africa."
    —Paul Chevigny, New York University

  • "Diana Gordon supplies a thorough and fair-minded assessment of South African reforms in the courts and the police stations. She brings together findings from an impressive body of recent scholarship supplemented by her own fieldwork on police forums and lay assessors."
    Journal of the Royal African Society

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Copyright © 2006, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

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  • 400 pages.
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  • 2009
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  • 978-0-472-02304-2

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