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The Social Question and State Formation in British Africa: Egypt, South Africa and Uganda in comparison

  • Alex Veit (a1), Klaus Schlichte (a2) and Roy Karadag (a3)

The paper explores governmental perceptions and reactions to “social questions” in British colonial Africa, c. 1880-1950. By comparing three different political entities, Egypt, South Africa and Uganda, we find that authorities across cases have been acutely aware of potentially destabilising social change. Some social problems actually resulted from colonial projects themselves, giving rise to rather contradictory interpretations and policies. However, the intensity of political reactions to social questions varied widely, ranging from a largely passive approach in Egypt to the introduction of modern welfare in South Africa. We argue that perceptions and responses to social dislocation had a long-term impact on patterns of state formation and social policy development.

L’objectif de cet article est d’étudier les perceptions et réactions face à la question sociale dans l’Afrique sous l’influence coloniale britannique de 1880 à 1950. En comparant trois cas différant, Égypte, Afrique du Sud et Ouganda, nous découvrons que les autorités dans chaque cas ont été conscientes du potentiel déstabilisateur du changement social. Certains problèmes sociaux ont été les conséquences directes des projets coloniaux donnant lieu aux interprétations et politiques contradictoires. Pourtant, l’intensité des réactions politiques face à la question sociale ont varié largement de l’approche passive en Égypte à l’introduction de l’état social moderne en l’Afrique du Sud. Nous argumentons que les perceptions et réponses face à la dislocation sociale ont eu une influence à long terme sur la formation de l’État et le développent de la politique sociale.

In diesem Beitrag werden die Interpretationen und Reaktionen auf soziale Fragen im britischen kolonialen Afrika zwischen 1880 und 1950 untersucht. Durch den Vergleich von drei politischen Einheiten – Ägypten, Südafrika und Uganda – wird gezeigt, dass sich die Autoritäten der potentiell destabilisierenden Auswirkungen von sozialem Wandel bewusst waren. Manche sozialen Probleme wurden dabei durch koloniale Projekte selbst hervorgerufen, woraufhin es zu widersprüchlichen Interpretationen und Politiken kam. Die Intensität der politischen Reaktionen auf soziale Fragen unterschied sich jedoch sehr stark. Während etwa in Ägypten ein weitgehend passiver Ansatz durchgehalten wurde, kam es in Südafrika zur Einführung eines modernen Wohlfahrtssystems. Wir argumentieren, dass die Interpretationen und Reaktionen auf soziale Verwerfungen langfristige Auswirkungen auf Staatsbildungsprozesse und die Entwicklung von Sozialpolitiken hatten.

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