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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Economics

Year Degree Awarded

2019

Month Degree Awarded

February

First Advisor

Gerald Epstein

Second Advisor

Robert Pollin

Third Advisor

James Heintz

Subject Categories

Finance | Growth and Development | Macroeconomics | Political Economy

Abstract

This dissertation uses a heterodox economics approach to explain poor levels of accumulation in South Africa. This approach to investment theory and models recognizes that many institutions are shaped to help people create stability in a world of fundamental uncertainty and irreversibility. Therefore, this dissertation examines the system of accumulation that developed in South Africa and its evolution. This approach to investment recognizes that beliefs and biases of people running institutions influence investment outcomes and shape ‘path dependence’.

The corporations that grew to dominate the South African economy were formed during colonialism and apartheid. They grew around a core of finance, mining and minerals related activities. By the 1980s, four diversified conglomerates and two financial companies dominated ownership and control over most of the economy.

The end of apartheid during the 1990s coincided with widespread neoliberal deregulation and economic globalization of trade and financial markets and growing financialization. Global corporate restructuring through mergers and acquisitions reshaped global corporations and global commodity chains and divided increasingly concentrated global markets. The post-apartheid government adopted neo-liberal economic policies that liberalized finance, aided financialization and allowed internationalization and selective withdrawal by some of the largest corporations from the economy. The original contribution of this dissertation is an analysis of accumulation during the post-apartheid period with a focus on financialization of the economy and the restructuring and internationalization of the largest corporations.

South Africa’s large conglomerates responded to domestic political change and global corporate restructuring by deconglomerating, restructuring and internationalizing much of their operations. In the process, they redivided the economy amongst themselves and with a few new entrants they concentrated market power. Financialization and internationalization of these corporations was associated with a disconnect between equity and financial markets and the real economy. Along with the impact of large, volatile uncontrolled capital flows, they have steered a growth path shaped by debt driven consumption and speculation in real estate and financial markets. There have also been high levels of capital flights from the economy. The outcome has been deindustrialization, decreased diversity of productive sectors and increased reliance on extractive industries.

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