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Warfare and Welfare in Colonial South Africa

28 August 2019

Amanda Shriwise presented a paper entitled "Warfare and Welfare in Colonial South Africa", at the International Sociological Association Research Committee 19 Annual Conference on "Global Crises and Social Policy: Coping with Conflict, Migration and Climate Change" in Mannheim, Germany.


Warfare and welfare have been juxtaposed in both political rhetoric and social policy scholarship. Yet, an increasing number of scholars are questioning the nature of the relationship between the two. While the aftermath of World War II (WWII) resulted in an unprecedented social transformation known as the ‘golden age of the welfare state’ in many advanced economies, war and conflict in former colonies, now countries, throughout the Global South appears to offer fewer examples of instances where such devastation has sparked social progress to a comparable extent. Through an examination of the 1899 South African War, this paper aims to identify similarities and differences in the relationship between warfare and welfare in former colonies in the Global South compared to countries in the Global North in order to contribute to theory-building at this intersection. The paper finds that while the demand-side mechanisms during the war preparation, mobilization, and post-war phases appear to be similar, the very presence of the metropole effectively pre-empts the need for colonial administrations to shore up their supply-side capabilities for both warfare and welfare. The transnational nature of colonialism ensured that the centre of gravity of warfare supply and welfare gains was largely in metropolitan Britain, rather than within British colonial South Africa. The conflict also reinforced, rather than alleviated, racial tensions, abuses, discrimination, and inequities that pervaded social policy in colonial south Africa and that continued on during Apartheid. Given the limits of case study generalization, more research is needed to uncover the transnational mechanisms that perpetuate asymmetries and inequalities in welfare provision in conflict-affected countries in the Global South. When built upon strong micro-foundations, identifying higher level causal principles and patterns across cases that link warfare and welfare can be used to guide policymaking both across and within conflict-affected territories and to promote social transformations that contribute to developmental progress in line with the current United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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