There have been growing calls to reframe the politics of poverty reduction, and of social protection in particular, in terms of extending the ‘social contract’ to the poorest groups. This is often understood as relocating social protection within a broader project politics of rights and justice as opposed to patronage. However, such calls belie the serious differences within social contract theory and between the forms of social protection that might emerge from different contractual approaches. The experience of social protection in Africa suggests that contractual approaches to social protection in practice may take regressive as well as progressive forms. It seems unlikely that international development agencies could promote progressive social contracts around social protection without significant reforms to the way in which aid currently works.
CPRC Working Paper No. 216, Chronic Poverty Research Centre, London, UK, ISBN: 978-1-908536-13-6, 22 pp.