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Palgrave Macmillan

One Hundred Years of Social Protection

The Changing Social Question in Brazil, India, China, and South Africa

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  • Open Access
  • © 2021

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  • Gives full attention to the emerging but as yet under-researched early history of social policy in the global South
  • Sets out a new theoretical approach that builds on the Weberian tradition in social policy research, elaborating the formative ideas that inspired the key actors and the conflicts about the direction of social policy in four countries
  • Draws extensively on original documents that reflect the views of contemporary actors, giving voice to domestic elites and social movements, rather than imposing preconceived Northern concepts

Part of the book series: Global Dynamics of Social Policy (GDSP)

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Table of contents (11 chapters)


About this book

While the rise of social protection in the global North has been widely researched, we know little about the history of social protection in the global South. This volume investigates the experiences of four middle-income countries - Brazil, India, China and South Africa - from 1920 to 2020, analysing if, when, and how these countries articulated a concern about social issues and social cohesion. 

As the first in-depth study of the ideational foundations of social protection policies and programmes in these four countries, the contributions demonstrate that the social question was articulated in an increasingly inclusive way. The contributions identify the ideas, beliefs, and visions that underpinned the movement towards inclusion and social peace as well as counteracting doctrines. Drawing on perspectives from the sociology of knowledge, grounded theory, historiography, discourse analysis, and process tracing, the volume will be of interest to scholars across political science, sociology, political economy, history, area studies, and global studies, as well as development experts and policymakers.


"Lutz Leisering continues his path-breaking analysis of social policy development outside the OECD world. This volume in effect draws the whole enterprise together. Together with acknowledged experts in the four countries it charts the development of social protection over the last century in Brazil, South Africa, China and India. It applies a novel historical theoretical framework to understand similarities and differences. And its unique ‘onion-skin model’ teases out the influence of ideas – ranging from the broadest ideologies to specific beliefs and images – on national understandings of the social question. This is the book students of global social policy and policy-makers have been waiting for." — Ian Gough FAcSS FRSA, Visiting Professor in CASE and Associate of GRI, London School of Economics; Emeritus Professor, University of Bath, UK



"In this important book, Lutz Leisering and his colleagues discuss the development of socialprotection in Brazil, China, India and South Africa over the last century by highlighting the role of political forces, social and economic ideas and social institutions in shaping social protection. It transcends the preoccupation with administration, finance and outcomes which characterizes much of the subject’s literature, and instead highlights the contribution of sociological factors to determining national policy goals. This is a sophisticated analysis which will stimulate future theoretical and empirical work on social protection around the world. It deserves to be widely consulted."— James Midgley, Professor of the Graduate School, University of California Berkeley, USA

Editors and Affiliations

  • Department of Sociology, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany

    Lutz Leisering

About the editor

Lutz Leisering is Professor Emeritus of Social Policy in the Department of Sociology, Bielefeld University, Germany, and founding member of the Institute for World Society Studies. 

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