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Senior Researcher, Society Work and Politics Institute, University of the Witwatersrand

Professor Karl von Holdt isSenior Researcher (former Director) of the Society Work and Politics Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where he has been based since 2007. Prior to that he was at the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)-linked policy Institute, NALEDI, and before that Editor of the South African Labour Bulletin. He has published Transition from below: forging trade unionism and workplace change in South Africa (2003), Beyond the apartheid workplace: studies in transition (2005) co-edited with Eddie Webster, and co-authored with Michael Burawoy Conversations with Bourdieu: the Johannesburg moment (2012). His current research interests include the functioning of state institutions, violence, and associational life, movements and democracy. He has served on the first National Planning Commission of South Africa. Karl started his working life teaching literacy to trade union members in the hostels and informal settlements of Cape Town in the early 1980s. He has also served as coordinator of COSATU's September Commission on the Future of Trade Unions (1996-97), and as a Director on the Board of the South African Post Office (1997-2003). He can be contacted at, or at SWOP Institute, Private Bag 3, Wits, 2050, South Africa.


  • –present
    Director, Society Work and Development Institute, University of the Witwatersrand