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Imagining the margins

policy, discourse and the government of poverty in South Africa

Andries du Toit


This paper looks at ten years of research and policy debate on poverty and chronic poverty in South Africa. It explores the distinctive character of research and policy debates about poverty in South Africa, situating them in the local context of South Africa’s transition and the local intellectual and political traditions that shapes poverty discourse. In particular, it explores  the complex relationship between poverty research and `thegovernment of poverty’ -the ways in which poverty knowledge, social policy, bureaucracy and state power are used not so much to eradicate or reduce poverty as to render it politically and socially manageable. It shows how coupling qual-quant integrated research and theoretical frameworks aimed at understanding social exclusion and adverse incorporation allows researchers and policy makers to go beyond the government of poverty, and to identify research and policy agendas that try to reduce and challenge the dynamics that perpetuate marginalization and durable inequality. It describes the key elements of emergent policies that seek to support `economicagency’ at the margins of the formal economy, and highlights some of the challenges facing researchers and policymakers. It considers the complex political situation created by the coexistence of a official managerial discourse about poverty and more politicized and populist discourses developing in popular politics, and the implications for the implementation of policies that can reduce structural poverty.

Publication Type(s)

Conference Paper

Ten Years of War Against Poverty Conference Papers

Conference: Ten Years of War Against Poverty


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