Accepted paper:

Studying Inequality in South Africa: Towards a Southern Approach


David Francis (University of the Witwatersrand)
Edward Webster (University of the Witwatersrand)
Imraan Valodia (University of the Witwatersrand)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper we will present emerging thinking on developing a southern approach to inequality which is informed by the study of inequality in South Africa. Our approach is underpinned by a focus on interdisciplinarity, power, and south-south research collaboration.

Paper long abstract:

Wits University has embarked on a multi-partner research and policy project focusing on understanding and addressing inequality, and building a collaborative southern institution to strengthen and sustain this work. Our starting premise is that while technical solutions to addressing inequality are very important, they will not be politically feasible unless the social and political forces driving high levels of inequality in South Africa are clearly understood and addressed. However, inequality is a global problem, and studying and addressing it in South Africa will also enable us to enter into a dialogue about inequality in other settings, particularly in the rest of the global south. The global south is emerging at the forefront in the use of socio-economic rights and the law to achieve social change. The changing geography of economic and political power in the world system is in fact closely related to the emergence of a new geography of global inequality in which more than 70 percent of the world's poor now live in middle-income countries. And crucially, widening inequalities between and within countries is coupled with the persistence of poverty.

The objective of our study is a comprehensive and broadly shared understanding of how inequality is produced and reproduced in South Africa and in comparable countries in the global south, and the identification of the sources of power that can address and overcome this inequality.

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Inequality studies: developing a southern approach (Paper)