This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book discusses the relationship between labour organisations and the attempted promotion by the African National Congress Government of a new African bourgeoisie through black economic empowerment. It highlights the contested dimension of policy shifts in post-apartheid South Africa in ways that reject both a triumphalist and progressive view of labour’s insertion into the national liberation struggle and, on the opposite, conspiracy-based arguments of how labour has been co-opted or ‘sold out’ to neoliberal politics. The book focuses on the experiences of local organisers and shop stewards and explores the marginalisation of traditions of democracy, mass participation and mobilisation inherited from the 1980s and their replacement in the 1990s by growing top-down, bureaucratised and technocratic approaches to labour relations at factory level. It summarises problems faced by unions in relation to the interplay of institutional dynamics and changing configurations of the South African working class.