Saturday, May 31, 2008

Book Review - Antony Altbeker : "A Country at War With Itself"

A Country At War With Itself: South Africa’s Crisis of Crime

Antony Altbeker

Jonathan Ball Publishers (2007), 189 p.

This sociological treatise traces both the origins and the fallout of the crime eruption of post-1994 South Africa. Altbeker raises some compelling questions about human nature, the boundaries of social conformity, and what happens when states cease to exercise legitimate control over their citizens; a point, he argues, SA has reached. His argument is that the justice system is hampered by its failure to adequately prosecute individuals arrested for the offences that they commit. This leads to a culture of impunity whereby the perception of the authorities as being indifferent to nihilistic behaviour emboldens potential or borderline criminals to flout the law as they see others have done.

His solution is not to lengthen sentences (which would increase the strain on our prisons), but to prosecute more offenders - out of which the “chilling effect” could take hold. Altbeker also rejects two commonly held assumptions about criminality in this country: that its primary cause is poverty, and that the philosophy of Restorative Justice can heal the brokenness of a “society half-made”. His preference is for a more traditional punitive model that punishes people swiftly and firmly for their aberrant deeds.

M&G Online: 'What if apartheid didn't do it?"


  1. I am looking for reviews of this book..any info would be appreciated.


  2. Other than googling, I would suggest trying to get hold of the publisher. They usually keep cuttings of all reviews and may know of many.

    What did you think of the book?

  3. Jonathan Ball are usually pretty responsive and you might also want to contact somebody at the Institute for Security Studies where AA works as a researcher.