This paper tests some of Robert Cox’s theories of political and social transformation using data from Round 1 (1999-2001) surveys in seven Southern African countries. Cox categorizes individuals as either “marginalised,” “precarious” or “integrated” with respect to the political and economic world order, and hypothesizes that those who are marginalized or excluded are more inclined to pose a challenge to the status quo than the precarious and integrated.
The author uses demographic data gathered by the survey to identify respondents according to Cox’s three categories, and then looks for correlations with a variety of indicators of satisfaction/dissatisfaction with the current political and economic systems, and willingness to acquiesce or protest. The results have shown, however, that the idea that the marginalized will act as a potential source of transformation “from below” cannot be accepted uncritically. In many cases they show lower propensity to press for change. The explanation for this may lie in their exclusion or existence on the fringes of the dominant ecnomic mode of production (globally and nationally); it is much more difficult to mobilise and organise for political transformation when every day is a struggle to meet one’s basic needs.