The Colour of Inequality in South Africa and Brazil: Making Sense of Transformative Social Policy.

Presented by Madalitso Phiri

Monday, 22 November, 2021 - 16:00

South Africa’s and Brazil’s social policy architectures attempt to address the residues of institutional poverty, inequality, and unemployment. South Africa remains deeply unequal and polarized despite government commitments to undo centuries of social stratification resulting from colonial legacies and post-apartheid policy constraints. On the other hand, under the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT)—Workers’ Party, led government Brazil’s social assistance programmes like the Bolsa Familia was viewed as a model to reduce inequality to be emulated across most countries in the Global South. To what extent are the social policies being pursued by both South Africa and Brazil leading toward a realisation of a new social contract? My presentation departs from the theoretical prism of studying welfare regimes through Eurocentric lenses, exemplified in the typologies of the welfare regime approach (WRA), and rather advocates a transformative social policy (TSP). The two countries offer a compelling comparison through shared histories of colonial domination, slavery, and anti-black racism. Drawing from 45 in-depth interviewees I challenge hagiographic representations of social policies by centering the Black Radical Tradition and theorizing with my interlocutors, the beneficiaries of these countries’ social welfare regimes. I conclude that the commodification of social provisioning fails to challenge institutional legacies of anti-black racism which are foundational to citizenship in both South Africa and Brazil.
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