The Idea of Transformative Social Policy: Securing Well-Being in an African Context

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 08:45
Oral Presentation
Jimi ADESINA, College of Graduate Studies, University of South Africa, South Africa
If the general idea of social policy embraces an expansive approach to the diversity of instruments for securing well-being, its translation into an academic discipline has narrowed the vision of the questions we ask of social policy and the instruments that are privileged. The focus on social services in the Titmuss formulation of the discipline tempered the mutual embeddedness of economic and social policies. The instruments selected in Esping-Andersen’s typology privileged social protection. The casting of the ‘East Asian’ social policy as ‘productivist’ attenuates the multiple tasking of social policy in the Nordic context, for instance—including the ‘production’ tasking; the same applies to the search for a “social investment” welfare state. The idea that, in the non-OECD context, employing other instruments not privileged in the European social policy scholarship involved doing “social policy by other means” attenuates the expansive vision of social policy pioneers—as public policy (Adesina 2015). The current hegemony of the “social protection paradigm,” privileging social assistance, in ‘developing countries’ further narrows the vision and tasking of social policy.

In a development context such as Africa, a wider vision of social policy, with broader instruments, is required in securing well-being. We return to the idea of Transformative Social Policy (Mkandawire and UNRISD 2006; Mkandawire 2007, 2011; Adesina 2007, 2009, 2011, 2015)—both as a heuristic and an evaluative device. We enunciate the five tasks of social policy; the interconnection of economic and social policies; and the transformation of economy, social institutions, and social relations. Drawing on data from a three-year study of “the social policy dimension of land reform”, we employ the transformative social policy in assessing the effectiveness of land and agrarian reform—an instrument that hardly features in OECD-centric social policy scholarship—in securing well-being and enhancing human capability.