Understanding Southern welfare – social policies in Brazil, India, China and South Africa


A mid-term research programme focusing on the ideational foundations of social policies beyond traditional “Northern” welfare will be fleshed out. The basic ideas of “Northern” welfare are well documented, also with regard to historical backgrounds. “Northern” welfare primarily refers to policies whereby the state acknowledges responsibilities with respect to the individual welfare of its citizens, providing income security (in case of old age, unemployment, or other contingencies) and health care. “Southern” welfare seems very different, as indicated elsewhere (Journal of International Welfare 2013, volume 22, supplement 1). To further explore the characteristics of social policies beyond “Northern” welfare, this project shall concentrate on policies in Brazil, India, China and South Africa: The countries are home to a large portion of the world’s population, they aspire to counter-balance Western alliances, they were poor countries decades ago and now rank among the middle-income countries, they have (differing) colonial pasts, some were constitutional fore-runners (Brazil; the former South Africa), one is a constitutional late-comer (the new South Africa), some enacted their first (modern) constitutions in the post-World War II era (India; China). “Social” rights or “social” directives are firmly entrenched in these constitutions. The country studies that are available so far, basically describe the details of certain social policies or programs. The aim is to prepare the groundwork for the theorizing of social policies beyond Northern welfare. Ideas underlying “welfare” in Brazil, India, China and South Africa as they evolved in the course of the twentieth century will be traced from a cross-disciplinary perspective: What is the meaning of social rights and directives laid down by the constitutions? How are responsibilities distributed among the state, individuals, families, or markets (law)? How are social policies of the governments conceptualized against the background of abject poverty, huge informal (labour) markets, or the lack of strong social-democratic ideologies (sociology of social policy)? To what extent is access to land an alternative to benefits in cash or in kind, enabling people to enjoy a livelihood (land policy)?

Project leader(s):
  • Ulrike Davy (Bielefeld), Benjamin Davy (Dortmund)

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