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Colonialism and Social Protection: Towards an Actor-Centric Approach

25 October 2018

Amanda Shriwise, Bastian Becker and Carina Schmitt presented a paper entitled "Colonialism and Social Protection: Towards an Actor-Centric Approach," at the Collaborative Research Centre 1342 "International Conference on Global Dynamics of Social Policy" in Bremen, Germany.


To explain the development of social policy in today’s advanced economies, classical accounts emphasize domestic structures and actors. External factors—especially actors—play a less central role. As a consequence, classical accounts are limited in their ability to explain social policy development in cases where external actors are pivotal. Considering that most of today’s nation states have been subordinated to others at some point, this is not a minor limitation. In this paper, we address colonialism as a particular kind of transnational governance in order to better understand social policy-making. We lay out how external actors feature in different theories of colonialism and propose a unified framework for an actor-centric approach to social policy development in the presence of powerful external actors. Two important strengths of the framework are that: (i) it can be amended to suit different research questions as well as different theoretical and conceptual predispositions; and (ii) it can capture the actor dynamics before and after independence. We showcase this in the context of the British Empire, and outline directions for future research.

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