The Poor As Drivers of Development How Global Discourses Legitimised Social Cash Transfers

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 8:30 AM
Room: F204
Oral Presentation
Moritz VON GLISZCZYNSKI , University of Bielefeld, Germany
Since 2005, social cash transfers (SCT) have become a legitimate and widely used instrument of
global development policy. This is surprising, because development organisations have long
rejected direct cash transfers, citing concerns of dependency and lacking capacity for
implementation in the Global South. In this paper I attempt to explain how and why development
organisations changed their position on social cash transfers. Previous research indicates that a shift
in global discourses may have caused development organisations to reconsider SCT as a policy
option. Therefore, using an approach of sociological discourse analysis, I check in how far changes
in global discourses prior to 2005 have had an impact on the legitimisation of SCT as development
Indeed, I find that three global discourses have played a role in the rise of social cash transfers: One
on poverty, one on development and one on human rights. Since the late 1980s, each of these
discourses has shifted in specific ways which have facilitated the legitimisation of SCT in
development policy. Even though the shifts in the three discourses do not seem to be causally
connected, they had a joint effect: I argue that the shifts in global discourses fundamentally changed
the perception of the poor in development policy. While the poor were long regarded as passive
beneficiaries of development, discursive shifts during the 1990s led to their perception as potential
drivers of development due to untapped economic potential. This shift in the perceptions of global
actors legitimised social cash transfers, because they were successfully portrayed as a direct
investment into the poor which can help to fulfil their untapped potential.