Refining the nation’s ‘new gold’: Music, youth development and neoliberalism in South Africa

Laryssa Whittaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper explores the work of the Field Band Foundation in South Africa, a non-governmental organization that has been working nationwide since 1997 to create opportunities for the development of ‘life skills’ in youth in predominantly socioeconomically underprivileged communities through music education. It positions the work of the FBF as a pragmatic interaction with the government’s efforts to rectify profound levels of socioeconomic inequality during the past two decades, which have relied upon neoliberal reform. I examine the political and economic developments in South Africa that mobilise such ideologies, attending to the historical trajectory of development discourse through the colonial and apartheid period. Observing the flexibility with which neoliberalism manifests in diverse settings, I identify conflicting moralities invoked within both neoliberalism and social development work, as music is harnessed to achieve humanitarian socioeconomic goals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-256
JournalCulture, Theory and Critique
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • South Africa
  • Neoliberalism
  • Music education
  • Life skills
  • NGOs (nongovernmental organisations)

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