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Table 6.1 The social question in pre-apartheid South Africa, 1910–1948: changing ideas and policies

From: The Social Question in Pre-apartheid South Africa: Race, Religion and the State

Period Changes in politics and society Social question and social ideas Broader ideational frames and contexts External ideas and models Key actors Policies, legislation and programmes
1910–1924 Post-war, post-Union construction of a united (white) nation and modern state Poor whites: Family breakdown Classic liberalism and racism Poor relief South African Party; mining capital; white workers Child Protection (1913), mothers’ pensions (1921), reformatories, etc.
1924–c. 1933 Pact Government;
Great Depression
White workers; “poor white problem”; and racial hierarchy New liberalism; labourism;
Afrikaner nationalism; racism
Social insurance (ILO), social pensions, etc. (UK, Australia, New Zealand); social casework National Party; Labour Party; and white workers Grants for poor mothers/children (1937) and old-age pensions (1928/1929)
c. 1934–c. 1945 Rapid economic growth; Second World War “poor white problem”; “social security”; juvenile delinquency; and rural poverty New liberalism;
Afrikaner nationalism; neo-Calvinist theology and racism
Rehabilitation of the poor; social security; and Beveridge Report Liberal reformers Grants for the disabled and blind; family allowances; unemployment insurance; and partial extension of some programmes to African people
c. 1945–the mid-1950s Tentative transition to apartheid Native and coloured questions Afrikaner nationalism; neo-Calvinist theology; and racism Development National Party and NGK Limited retrenchment of provision for African people
  1. Note: The final period is dated from c. 1945 to the mid-1950s because the framing of the social question and the ensuing social protection policies did not change neatly with the change of government in 1948. The pre-1948 government began to back-pedal from about 1945, whilst the post-1948 National Party government was unsure what to do on key issues for several years, only hitting its stride in the 1950s