The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

Granting Justice 1

The book thus takes issue with the characterisation of the South African state as “developmental”. The crucial aspect of care is missing from the practice for this to be the case. Thus, while the grants address the immediate survival needs of many South Africans, social justice requires quite a different approach, an approach of care that would grant agency and dignity to recipients.

Hochfeld adopts a highly personal narrative style of writing that reflects the ethical standpoint that she took during her research. Telling a story is what makes her writing so strong and distinguishes it in the development literature. The book falls into the fields of development studies, and social welfare and social development. The following are possible keywords: social justice; gender justice; care; social development; poverty; social protection; southern welfare; family strengthening; developmental social work.

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Product information

Format : 240mm x 168mm (Soft Cover)
Pages : 256
ISBN 13 : 978-0-7969-2620-3
Publish Year : March 2022
Rights : World Rights

List of tables and figures viii

Foreword ix

Acknowledgements xiii

Abbreviations xiv

  1. The child support grant: Hopes for a transformative agenda 1
  2. ‘Please, sir, may I have some more?’ Social justice and the politics of redistribution 24
  3. Narrative without stories, stories without narrative 44
  4. A ‘hand-up’, not a ‘hand-out’ 66
  5. The more you need, the less deserving you are: Nandi’s story of poverty 90
  6. Choosing between security and freedom: Households and cash 114
  7. Social justice: We need cash and care 131

Notes 149

References 151

About the author 172

Appendix: List of publications by Tessa Hochfeld 173

Index 176

The late Prof Tessa Hochfeld (1972-2019) was an internationally recognised academic and social worker who was passionate and committed to social and gender justice. The way she went about her research reflected her kindness and generosity of spirit, her engagement and subjectivity. Yet it was critical and reflective of what it might mean for a theory of justice in a southern context. Tessa's work was not simply about theory, although it was profoundly theoretical. It was about finding ways to improve people's lives. Her research was motivated by finding solutions that were tested, based on evidence and that built on what she learnt from people's everyday struggle to make a living.

She leaves a rich theoretical and critical body of intellectual work on social welfare, social protection, gender, social care and social and gender justice. This work is highly relevant to contemporary debates on distributive justice in political and social thought internationally, and most importantly, to understanding what is loosely referred to as 'Southern Welfare'.

Tessa was also a talented and committed teacher, mentor and supervisor. It is our wish, as her family and colleagues, to see her work continued through the development of excellent Masters researchers who are interested in the field of social and gender justice and in committing to her approach of "engaged scholarship".Bursary recipients will be selected from applicants to the Interdisciplinary Masters in Social Policy and Development programme – a programme that Prof Hochfeld was instrumental in setting up.


Granting Justice takes issue with the characterisation of the South African state as ‘developmental’. The crucial aspect of care is missing from the practice for this to be the case. Although grants address the immediate survival needs of many South Africans, social justice requires quite a different approach, an approach of care that would grant agency and dignity to recipients.

Tessa Hochfeld in this posthumous book, approached the grant system from the bottom up. She was interested in how women defined their own needs, rather than how these were defined by the state, and whether cash made an impact on their decision-making within households.

I am very pleased that this important work on the South African child care grant and its effects on lives of women by Tessa Hochfeld is being published posthumously, as it offers a significant contribution to debates on societal arrangements regarding care and justice in current times of global precarity.

Vivienne Bozalek, Emerita Professor Women’s and Gender Studies, University of the Western Cape, Honorary Professor Centre for Higher Education Research, Teaching and Learning, Rhodes University

By diving deep into poor women’s lives while keeping a steady eye on feminist theories, Tessa Hochfeld guides us in the debate on the implications of child support grants for female recipients in South-Africa. Inspired by the American philosopher Nancy Fraser, Tessa wonders whether cash transfers contribute to these mothers’ capacities to live the lives that they value, and make the world more just. The study is a path-breaking example of understanding the meaning of institutional failure for individual lives, in this case the lives of six women living in Johannesburg. Hochfeld concludes that the South African state, while offering cash grants for its poor children (the majority of all South-African children), fails to invest systematically in poor children’s future, thereby not only limiting the impact of the grant but also continuing injustice by privatising caring responsibility onto families, in particular mothers. The book must be read by all activists, policy-makers, students, academics, and politicians in and outside South-Africa.

Trudie Knijn, Emerita Professor of Interdisciplinary Social Science, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

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