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Accepted Paper:

How formalisation founders: property inheritance on the margins of a regulatory infrastructure  
Maxim Bolt (University of Oxford)

Paper Short Abstract:

In Johannesburg, the state’s inheritance system promises post-apartheid access to fair and protective regulation. A network of state, civic and for-profit services brings the system ‘to the people’. Yet, as understandings of public commitment diverge, formalisation and its legal protections founder.

Paper Abstract:

Under apartheid in South Africa, the state regulation of property inheritance was one among many aspects of governance that excluded the black majority. As administration was deracialised, the legal-administrative system expanded rapidly to serve a new public. Rules and processes specify how property should be passed on, who should benefit, and how parties can seek redress. Today, in Johannesburg, formal inheritance is understood by a range of practitioners as a public infrastructure offering post-apartheid access to protective regulation. A distributed network of institutions extends beyond state officialdom to civic and for-profit services, with the aim of bringing the system ‘to the people’. Its public character implies not only shared rules and processes, but shared values, access and benefit, and a shared public experience of encounter and collective engagement. Yet, while these features capture the aspirations of officials and many providers of non-state assistance, their realisation is far from straightforward. Access, benefit, a shared public experience, a shared professional ethic, and the predictability to orient future plans: all of these are called into question. Increased public access occurs at normative interfaces. In a complicated regulatory system whose navigation requires expertise, one interface is between the law and popular norms. Another is between civic and for-profit notions of service. A shared project of post-apartheid access coexists with different institutional agendas, and variable understandings and degrees of public commitment. The expanding frontier of a public regulatory infrastructure reveals the labour of brokering and bridging, and ultimately how formalisation and its legal protections founder.

Panel P146
Doing and undoing regulation
  Session 2 Tuesday 23 July, 2024, -