This research focuses on South Africa’s democratic period and in particular on the state ambition- which I call the post-apartheid project— to provide a better life for all its citizens. Reading this project in terms of the provision of infrastructure and welfare as well as a legal framework to secure rights, I explore the impact of the project on the lived experience of South Africans in the countryside. Through an ethnographic account of state housing settlement built after 1994, I show how the democratic regime has put in place conditions to materially improve life but that the precarity of work and the absence of economic opportunities have constrained how people are able to imagine and realise a better future, especially outside large metropolitan centres. Revealing the lived paradoxes around government aid and democratic project— in which people reject democracy and desire more state intervention – this research speaks to recent experiments with progressive democracy, especially outside the global North. It concludes with a reflection on precarity, privatisation and politics across the world, and asks about the possibilities of a future democracy. During the fellowship period, I will complete and submit a book manuscript and address the publisher’s revisions of the manuscript.