Accepted paper:

Escaping solidarity? Mutuality and commercial insurance in South Africa

Authors:

Erik Bähre (Universiteit Leiden)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how commercial insurance affects solidarity and reciprocity among neighbours in predominantly Xhosa speaking townships of Cape Town, South Africa.

Paper long abstract:

Over the fifteen years South Africa has witnessed the rise of commercial insurance policies for the predominantly African urban poor and lower middle-classes. This paper examines how insurance policies affect solidarity and reciprocity among neighbours in predominantly Xhosa speaking townships of Cape Town. It identifies two consequences of the rise of commercial insurance for solidarity. First, there is a tendency to leave financial mutuals as well as other neighbourhood-based reciprocal networks. Second, solidarity and reciprocity changes as commercial insurance companies increasingly rely on them for doing business. Does this lead to individualisation and is this the kind of individualisation process that has been witnessed in Europe? Or does this lead to other kinds of reciprocal networks and forms of solidarity? The study is based on extensive ethnographic research and a survey among residents in two townships Cape Town as well as open interviews and an online survey among professionals in the world of commercial insurance.

panel P01
Enlightenment's third pillar: solidarity and solidarity economies