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To be a part of this online event, please email Dr Maren Elfert to receive the link.

In this CPPR lunchtime seminar, Dr Liz Fouksman explores distribution, work and deservingness among the southern African unemployed.

The idea of the deserving and undeserving poor – those who should and should not be helped with social policy and welfare – dates back at least to the Victorian era. It has been reborn in the age of austerity with the rise of workfare in the global North and conditional and targeted social protection in the global South, underscoring the long-held belief that the poor worthy of protection are those who are physically unable to work (children, the elderly and the disabled).

But perhaps the most puzzling aspect of this discourse of deservingness is not that it is enforced by policy makers, development professionals and the wealthy, but rather the lack of opposition it has received from ordinary people. While some recent scholarship has proposed the existence of widespread demands for a new politics of distribution (universalized and thus free of judgements of worth and deservingness – such as a universal basic income), this paper challenges this view.

Rather, Liz's long-term fieldwork with the unemployed poor in southern Africa demonstrates that worthiness through work plays an ongoing and crucial role in my interlocutors' understandings of wealth creation, accumulation and distribution, and thus their political demands. In particular, this paper explores the ways in which the universal distribution of certain goods, particularly land, housing and natural resource wealth, is seen to be 'rightful', while other forms of distribution, particularly that of cash, is understood to be something that must be deserved or earned through hard work and productivism.

About the speaker

Dr Liz Fouksman is a Lecturer in Social Justice in the School of Education, Communication and Society at King’s College London.

To be a part of this online event, please email Dr Maren Elfert to receive the link.

At this event

Liz Fouksman

Lecturer in Social Justice

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