PhD Project


With my project I aim to contribute to an understanding of the ambiguous reinvention of the welfare state after neoliberal retrenchment. Based on qualitative data from Zambia, I compare the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) with the Social Cash Transfer (SCT) and find a number of mechanisms that constitute the possibility space of the state in doing social policy. I started from the observation that after a considerable period of state withdrawal from various sectors, many Southern African countries are now seeing new state-led social policies, and some observers have called this a renaissance or revolution. I wanted to find out, however, what "kind" of state is re-emerging, with what image and relationships.

My qualitative data was generated in interviews and participant observation in two specific realms of social policy: agricultural subsidies to small-scale farmers, and cash transfers to select sub-groups of the poor. I employed an inductive approach informed by symbolic interactionism, historical political economy, and a Grounded Theory methodology. My overall argument centres around several mechanisms that constitute a dialectic process of state formation, where the state simultaneously extends its reach and manifests its boundaries. These have to do with contradictory constructions of responsibility, an ambiguous interpretation of the outsourcing of some functions to non-state local actors, historical legacies of urban-rural disconnections, as well as internationalised policy learning of a short sighted trial and error type.



Prof Dr Klaus Schlichte, InIIS

Prof Dr James Putzel, LSE

PD Dr Ulrich Franke, InIIS