Poverty Knowledge in South Africa: A Social History of Human Science, 1855-2005

Poverty Knowledge in South Africa: A Social History of Human Science, 1855-2005

by Grace Davie

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Poverty is South Africa's greatest challenge. But what is “poverty”? And how can it be measured and addressed? In South Africa, human-science knowledge about the cost of living grew out of colonialism, industrialization, apartheid, and civil resistance campaigns, which makes this knowledge far from neutral or apolitical. South Africans have used the Poverty Datum Line (PDL), and other poverty indicators, to petition the state, to chip away at the pillars of white supremacy, and, more recently, to criticize the postapartheid government's failures to deliver on its promises. Rather than advocating one particular policy solution, this book argues that poverty knowledge – including knowledge of the tension between quantitative and qualitative observations – teaches us about the dynamics of historical change, the power of racial thinking in white settler societies, and the role of ordinary people in shaping state policy. Readers will gain new perspectives on today's debates about social welfare, redistribution, and human rights and will ultimately find reasons to rethink conventional approaches to advocacy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780521198752
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 02/05/2015
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 341
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 8.98(h) x 0.79(d)

About the Author

Grace Davie is Associate Professor of History at Queens College, City University of New York. Her articles have appeared in the Journal of Southern African Studies, Waging Nonviolence, YES! magazine, and OD Practitioner.

Table of Contents

Part I. Lay Knowledge Meets Human Science, 1855–1940: The Co-production of the 'Poor White Problem': 1. Before poverty measurement: conjuring worlds without want; 2. The human sciences in interwar South Africa: William Macmillan, I. D. MacCrone, and the Carnegie Commission; Part II. The Limits of Invention, 1940–70: Social Reform and Quantitative Objectivity: 3. The minimum standards moment: Edward Batson and the Poverty Datum Line (PDL); 4. Rethinking governmentality: urban planning, rural betterment, and the apartheid state; Part III. The People's Facts: Epistemic Mobility and the Negotiated Settlement, 1970–2005: 5. Agitation through quantification: white student activists in the era of black consciousness; 6. From people's power to corporate power: poverty research and the transition to democracy; 7. Baselines and battle lines: social surveying after apartheid; Conclusion; Epilogue.

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