Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

Poverty Knowledge in South Africa
A Social History of Human Science, 1855–2005

$32.99 (C)

  • Author: Grace Davie, Queens College, City University of New York
  • Date Published: August 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107551732

$ 32.99 (C)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Hardback, eBook

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • Poverty is South Africa's greatest challenge. But what is “poverty”? And how can it be measured and addressed? In South Africa, human-science knowledge about the cost of living grew out of colonialism, industrialization, apartheid, and civil resistance campaigns, which makes this knowledge far from neutral or apolitical. South Africans have used the Poverty Datum Line (PDL), and other poverty indicators, to petition the state, to chip away at the pillars of white supremacy, and, more recently, to criticize the postapartheid government's failures to deliver on its promises. Rather than advocating one particular policy solution, this book argues that poverty knowledge – including knowledge of the tension between quantitative and qualitative observations – teaches us about the dynamics of historical change, the power of racial thinking in white settler societies, and the role of ordinary people in shaping state policy. Readers will gain new perspectives on today's debates about social welfare, redistribution, and human rights and will ultimately find reasons to rethink conventional approaches to advocacy.

    • The first book to locate technical poverty lines in their broad historical context in South Africa
    • Traces the origins of present-day debates about social welfare grants and income inequality
    • Draws on deep archival research, interviews, and a wide range of source materials ranging from novels to unpublished field notes to letters, parliamentary debates, and newspaper reports
    Read more

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107551732
    • length: 346 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.52kg
    • contains: 3 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Lay Knowledge Meets Human Science, 1855–1940: The Co-production of the 'Poor White Problem':
    1. Before poverty measurement: conjuring worlds without want
    2. The human sciences in interwar South Africa: William Macmillan, I. D. MacCrone, and the Carnegie Commission
    Part II. The Limits of Invention, 1940–70: Social Reform and Quantitative Objectivity:
    3. The minimum standards moment: Edward Batson and the Poverty Datum Line (PDL)
    4. Rethinking governmentality: urban planning, rural betterment, and the apartheid state
    Part III. The People's Facts: Epistemic Mobility and the Negotiated Settlement, 1970–2005:
    5. Agitation through quantification: white student activists in the era of black consciousness
    6. From people's power to corporate power: poverty research and the transition to democracy
    7. Baselines and battle lines: social surveying after apartheid

  • Author

    Grace Davie, Queens College, City University of New York
    Grace Davie is Associate Professor of History at Queens College, City University of New York. Her articles have appeared in the Journal of Southern African Studies, Waging Nonviolence, YES! magazine, and OD Practitioner.

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.