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Formalities of Poverty: Thinking about Social Assistance in Neoliberal South Africa

Abstract
Abstract:

In Marginal Gains (2004), Jane Guyer traces the logic of African socioeconomic practices that have long confounded attempts by modern states to impose what she terms “formalization.” Nowhere is the tension between pragmatically “informal” economic life and putatively “formal” state structures more evident than in the domain of poverty interventions, which typically aim to bring state institutional power to bear precisely on those who are most excluded from the “formal sector.” This article offers a preliminary analysis of some new rationalities of poverty alleviation observable in recent South African political and policy discourse. I will argue that new sorts of programmatic thinking about poverty represent a new development within (and not simply against) neoliberalism, and that they seek, by abandoning the regulatory and normalizing functions usually associated with social assistance, to bring the formal and the informal into a new sort of relation.

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Keith Breckenridge . 2005. “The Biometrie State: The Promise and Peril of Digital Government in the New South Africa. Journal of Southern African Studies 31 (2): 267–82.

Mary Douglas . 1984 [1966]. Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. New York: Routledge.

Ben Fine . 2000. Social Capital versus Social Theory: Political Economy and Social Science at the Turn of the Millenium. New York: Routledge.

Rem Koolhaas , et al.2000. Mutations. Barcelona: ACTAR.

Nikolas Rose . 1999. Powers of Freedom: Reframing Political Thought. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Andreas Sagner . 2000. “Ageing and Social Policy in South Africa: Historical Perspectives with Particular Reference to the Easter Cape.” Journal of Southern African Studies 26 (3): 523–33.

Jeremy Seekings , and Nicoli Nattrass . 2005. Class, Race, and Inequality in South Africa. New Haven: Yale University Press.

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African Studies Review
  • ISSN: 0002-0206
  • EISSN: 1555-2462
  • URL: /core/journals/african-studies-review
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