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Contradictions of DemocracyVigilantism and Rights in Post-Apartheid South Africa$
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Nicholas Rush Smith

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190847180

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190847180.001.0001

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The Risks and Rewards of Vigilantism

The Risks and Rewards of Vigilantism

Chapter:
(p.130) Chapter 6 The Risks and Rewards of Vigilantism
Source:
Contradictions of Democracy
Author(s):

Nicholas Rush Smith

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190847180.003.0007

Why would anyone participate in vigilantism given its risks? By examining the case of a KwaMashu street committee leader who was shot allegedly because of his crime-fighting work, this chapter shows that forceful crime-fighting offers emotional rewards. To the street committee leader, participating in the street committee meant being a good community member, a good African National Congress member, and a good citizen. Therefore, vigilantism emerges amid robust associational bonds often connected to high levels of social capital and reductions in violence. However, the chapter also shows that such informal crime-fighting is premised on a contradictory form of social capital that has equally contradictory effects on violence. Ironically, the street committee leader’s civic commitments made him comfortable with violence against neighborhood residents who violated the moral tenets of the local imagined community.

Keywords:   vigilantism, emotion, street committee, social capital, risk

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