Start main page content

Society, Work and Development Institute

The Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) is one of the University’s most enduring research organisations. The central problem investigated through the current SWOP research programmes is the precarious nature of social order.

SWOP image

SWOP has over a period of 30 years established a national and international reputation in the study of work, labour, informalisation, households, the state, politics, violence and protest. It is one of the University of the Witwatersrand’s most enduring research organisations and in 2008 it was recognised as a flagship research programmes and awarded Institute status. The central problem investigated through the current SWOP research programmes is the making and unmaking of social order. SWOP’s research has revealed contradictory processes of fragmentation and solidarity across different sites in society such as the community, workplace, household and state institutions. 

In the second decade after the democratic elections of 1994, it is clear that slow-burning contestations over the dissolution of the old order and the shape of the emerging order are wide-ranging, with implications for development, democracy, law, gender relations and society as a whole. 

Such processes – the making and unmaking of social orders –distinguish many societies of the Global South. We believe they present distinctive problems for social theory elaborated in the different social and historical conditions of the Global North, while simultaneously posing distinctive problems for socio-economic development.

SWOP researchers are exploring these problems through research into work and worklessness, society and nature, households, social reproduction, gender orders and welfare regimes, civil society, class formation, citizenship, movements and violence. A major new research focus which combines many of these themes is on the social frontiers of the new mining industries and the rural, social and political transformations that accompany them.

Through contract and grant funding, SWOP has a strong cohort of postgraduate Fellows and Interns working on PhD's and MAs. In addition, SWOP collaborates with a network of Associates located at Wits and other institutions, both nationally and internationally.

SWOP has four broad aims:

  1. Making a distinctive contribution to the development of social theory in the global South, thus helping position the social sciences at Wits University at the cutting edge of social theory and analysis globally;
  2. Providing the basis for dynamic research partnerships with other centres in the Global South;
  3. Providing the kind of engaged and innovative social knowledge required for policy innovation in the field of development;
  4. Developing a new generation of social researchers.

See more here.