The IRR as False Witness

Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory 69 (172):1-31 (2022)
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Abstract

Historically, the South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has been viewed as a reliable source of information given its near century-long work of compiling statistics and reports about race relations and the social conditions affecting different race groups in South Africa. I make the case that the IRR should not be considered a reliable source of information about race groups and their social conditions in contemporary South Africa because of how the IRR misrepresents the views of ordinary South Africans with the intention of influencing policy towards the IRR’s preferred ideological positions. Rather than presenting criticism of their ideological slant, I show how their policy proposals are not supported by their survey data or their interpretation. Furthermore, I argue that their misrepresentation of South Africans’ beliefs is damaging to democratic processes because what the public claims it wants from government has a significant impact on what government’s mandate from its citizenry is thought to be.

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Phila M. Msimang
University of Stellenbosch

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