Social self-defence: Where grievances, opportunities and protests collide

Marlene Muller, Mandlenkosi Lawrence Mkhize

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Twenty-one years into democracy has transformed South Africa into a protest nation, mirroring the social self’s aspirations for development and equality. The voice of the poor remains marginalised, resulting in weakened democratic institutions that threaten grassroots’ quality of life. As a newly created concept, social self-defence materialises when a significant part of a desperate community takes counter measures to secure their socio-economic well-being. Theoretically, this article connects social self-defence with the individual-institutional basis of grassroots’ protests, as underpinned by the theories of grievance and political opportunity structure. A qualitative survey investigated the reasoning behind political protests within two diverse South African communities affected by unequal economic growth and violent protests. From the findings, the article concludes that relative deprivation and
ineffective participatory democracy re-ignite the social self. By not strengthening democratic mechanisms, social self-defence will continue to challenge ineffective local governments, demanding improved opportunities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-456
Number of pages24
JournalWorld Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • social self-defence
  • SSD
  • relative deprivation
  • grievance theory
  • poverty
  • participatory democracy
  • violent protests
  • social self
  • South Africa
  • protest nation
  • political opportunity structure theory


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