This essay explores the legacy of racially allocated welfare in South Africa, focusing on the history of the migrant labor system. In outlining a relationship between racial capitalism and precarity—the immediate consequence of the denial of welfare—the essay argues that the promises of universal welfare that came with the transition to democracy were ultimately displaced given the advent of neoliberalism after 1994. If the anti-apartheid struggles strove to dismantle white supremacy, in practical terms, such struggles lacked the concrete capacities to address the abject everyday material conditions of life under apartheid. The enormity of the historical injury and the implementation of less than effective policies to address land, housing, services, and employment has led to renewed social struggles since 1994 that have been primarily focused on restoring the idea of welfare for all.

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