The Political Economy of Mental Illness in South Africa  book cover
1st Edition

The Political Economy of Mental Illness in South Africa

ISBN 9780367192631
Published February 18, 2021 by Routledge
184 Pages

FREE Standard Shipping
USD $160.00

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

The book describes key socio-political reforms that helped shape post-apartheid South Africa’s mental health system.

The author interrogates how reforms shaped public, community-based services for people living with severe mental illness, and how features of this care has been determined, in part at least, by the relations between actors and structures in the state, private for-profit health care, and civil society spheres. A description of the development of South Africa’s post-apartheid health system, and the contentions that emerge therein, sets the stage for an analysis of the country’s most tragic human rights failure during its democratic period, namely the Life Esidimeni tragedy. The roots of the tragedy are not only framed as a loss of life and dignity as a result of political corruption and administrative mismanagement, but as a power differential that ultimately highlights an unjust system that relegates its most vulnerable citizens to commodities, without voice and without agency. The book concludes that the commodification of severe mental illness has been a product of neoliberal discourses that have shaped the economistic ways in which the post-apartheid South African state have governed poverty and severe mental illness.

This book will be of interest to scholars of health, social and economic policy in South Africa.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. The Governance of Mental Health Care in South Africa 3. Collaboration Between State and Non-State Mental Health Services 4. Collaboration Between the State and Civil Society: An Uneasy Coalition 5. Governance of State and Civil Society Mental Health Care Collaboration 6. When Systems Fail: Life Esidimeni and the Meaning of Justice 7. Neoliberal Mental Health Care in Post-Apartheid South Africa 8. Concluding Thoughts

View More



André J. van Rensburg is a senior researcher at the Centre for Rural Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and a research fellow at the Centre for Health Systems Research & Development, University of the Free State, South Africa.