Debating solidarity in the context of South Africa’s National Health Insurance

In this Global Health Unpacked seminar, Lauren Paremoer will explore how social rights and solidarity are discussed in South African public discourses, and how these debates impact the realization of Universal Health Coverage.

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This talk examines discourses about solidarity that have been generated by the South African government’s proposals to create a National Health Insurance (NHI) Fund.

I argue that these discourses reveal the contradictions of trying to foster social solidarity in the context of the “death of the social” which in South Africa is expressed as a preoccupation with representing the “rich” and ”poor” as “two nations”, rather than elements of one single process and constitutive of a single society with a shared fate. This is reflected in how social rights are conceptualised in debates about the NHI.

First, social rights are understood as salvaging mechanisms that should be used to mitigate the worst inequalities generated by the market society. They are not understood as mechanisms for dismantling the market society, in which society becomes an “adjunct of the market”. In this way social solidarity is something that modulates the effects of capitalist markets, but leaves the idea that social relations should promote capital accumulation undisturbed.

Second, debates about solidarity reveal a resistance to institutionalising social rights in a manner that exposes wealthier South Africans to a lived experience that defines everyday life of the majority of the population: literally entrusting the state with their lives and wellbeing. The resistance to the postapartheid state’s efforts to create solidarity – defined as sharing risks, resources and crafting a shared lived experience through the use of public health facilities – suggest that “the social” as an object of governance and a collective identity fails to resonate with wealthier citizens.

Lauren Paremoer, University of Cape Town

About Lauren Paremoer

Lauren Paremoer is a senior lecturer at the University of Cape Town and a guest researcher, Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden. Her research focuses on health activism, global governance for health, and political mobilisation aimed at realising social citizenship in societies of the Global South. She has explored these themes in relation to the struggle for the right to HIV/AIDS treatment in South Africa, the social reproduction work undertaken by community health workers and women more generally, and the use of for-profit markets and philanthrocapitalism to ameliorate the worst effects of deteriorating public health systems.


A light refreshment will be served, please register:

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About this seminar

Global Health Unpacked” is a seminar series that aims to bring together the global health community on a regular basis to critically discuss key debates in Global Health in informal and interactive seminars. Guest speakers (both from the University of Oslo and from other universities) will bring an original perspective to the topic and engage in a conversation with the audience.

With this forum, we also hope to facilitate exchanges and collaborations between global health researchers and students present in Oslo and foster interdisciplinary research. “Global Health Unpacked” is jointly organized by the research group Power and Politics of Global Health, Centre for Development and the EnvironmentUiO Centre for Global Health.


Published Nov. 6, 2019 11:31 AM - Last modified Oct. 6, 2020 1:38 PM