July 26th 2022

PA.179 | The Welfare state in colonial and post-colonial perspective.

Parallel Sessions
09:00 - 12:00
This panel seeks to discuss the history of the welfare state from colonial and post-colonial perspectives, since the end of the nineteenth century through the mid-1970s, offering distinct chronologies, geographies and case-studies. Since its very onset, at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century, first rules on labor protection introduced in Europe, voluntarily excluded colonial subjects, mostly considered too backward to benefit of these new rules. Why was it so? Was it because of colonialism, and related racialized outlooks? Because of peculiar (to an empire? To a colony) social, economic and geo-political concerns and calculations? And how this varied from empire-state to empire-state, from colony to colony? Then in the interwar period, the emergence of the ILO and the fight against forced labor (and ‘conditions analogous to slavery’) pushed towards a limited remodeling of social protection in the colonial world, even if the very same distinction in the ILO organization between the wage labor and the forced labor divisions strongly inherited from the previous period. ‘Colonial clauses’ abounded, in public arguments and official legislation, at the metropoles and in international fora. Normative and legislative expansion had clear limitations, even if they varied from one case to another. Here, the question consists in understanding the possible varieties of arrangements and their outcomes in terms of economic and social dynamics fostered by discrete political decisions and legal frameworks. It was only during the decolonization momentum that the major colonial powers introduced, frequently more de jure than de facto, almost equal social rights in the colonial worlds and in the mainland. Moreover, this process found limits in the extension of civil and political rights, then in the end of empires. After independence, multiple arrangements were produced in the new states, sometimes giving rise to impressive continuities with colonial institutions in terms of social rights, forms of inclusion/exclusion or even political arguments and rationales related to, among other aspects, to ‘state-formation’ and ‘nation-building’. Was this because of a strong path dependency or do different issues call for another explanation? The crisis of the welfare state in the west, since the second half of the 1970s, also produced major impacts on the evolution of the welfare in the former colonies. Was this outcome related to a persistent dependence from the former mainland, to “local” conditions or both in a new global economic interaction emerging at that time?
Alessandro Stanziani