Accepted Paper:

Norms of responsibility and solidarity  


Jeremy Seekings (University of Cape Town)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines explicit and implicit norms of responsibility (of state and non-state actors) and solidarity (between citizens or groups) within political parties in selected countries in Botswana, Zambia and Malawi, drawing on manifestos and other party documents together with interviews.

Paper long abstract:

Large areas of public policy - including public education, health care and social protection - entail implicit conceptions of the scope of both public responsibility (relative to non-state actors) and solidarity between citizens or social groups. Since independence there has been a massive expansion in public provision but research on the underlying norms seems to have been limited to philosophical analysis of concepts of 'ubuntu'. Research into politicians' attitudes towards different areas of public policy reveals striking variation, between policies and between politicians. For the most part, drought relief, education and (to a lesser extent) health care seem to be accepted as a largely public responsibility, with a strong sense of country-wide solidarity. Social protection, however, is much more controversial, with most politicians setting clear limits to both public responsibility and solidarity. This paper draws on research on political parties and policy-making in three Southern African countries - Botswana, Zambia and Malawi - to examine the explicit and implicit norms around responsibility and solidarity within political parties. The paper pays particular attention to differences between the norms and discourses of rights favoured by many international organisations and politicians' norms and discourses around responsibilities and solidarity. The paper analyses manifestos and other party documents, together with extensive interviews with politicians in the three countries.

Panel Pol02
Normative politics in Africa