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The South African unemployment debate - Three worlds, three discourse (revised).pdf

Frederick C.v.N Fourie | September 2012

This paper presents a critical survey and meta-analysis of the South African academic literature on unemployment. It asks whether the research has produced a coherent analytical picture. Key elements of seminal contributions are summarised. A number of key themes and findings are identified, as are significant differences relating to subdisciplines but also to epistemology, method and technique (and ideology).

It is demonstrated that the large number of research contributions on unemployment in South African can be clustered into a number of discourses signified by distinctive topics, approaches, vocabulary, models and data (inter alia). It shows that the South Africa unemployment ‘discourse landscape’ is spacious and varied, with many mountains and hills, some coherence, but also deep valleys/divides. Three major discourse ‘worlds’ – labour, poverty-development, and macro – are distinguished, with some sub-discourses. There is much evidence of researchers in particular discourses not engaging with research results produced in other discourses, and even being analytically blinkered by their home discourse. Debate occurs within the discourses, but not
much between them.

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