The Growth, Employment, and Redistribution (GEAR) Strategy which was introduced in 1996 by the new post-apartheid government of the African National Congress (ANC) received a lot of condemnation from many quarters of society not least from left-leaning organisations and organized labour. Just a decade later the build up to as well as the actual ANC Elective Conference of 2007 promised a departure from GEAR and the so-called “1996 Class Project”. The advent of the 2008 global economic meltdown further discredited neoliberal policies and it appeared as if the world was ripe for an alternative to economic orthodoxy. The criticism which peaked in the late 1990s and dominated most of the first decade of the new millennium continues to date albeit in a subdued and moribund tone. This paper argues that critique of GEAR failed at least at three levels. Firstly it was unsuccessful at explicating the occurrence of paradigmatic shifts in macro-economic policy. Secondly, the dominant analysis could not move beyond economic reductionism to appreciate other macro level determinants that shape policy trajectories. And lastly the critique was unable to appreciate the complexity of South Africa’s integration into the neoliberal global economy and the impossibility of delinking from that system. More than two decades since the introduction of GEAR no alternative to the neoliberal paradigm looms in the horizon yet sporadic mentions of the shortcomings of economic orthodoxy continue to flare up. Appreciating the provenance of ideas not only explicates their resilience but also how ideas and institutions, broadly defined, change over time.