Work and save: Mobilising work ethic for Afrikaner empowerment, 1918 to 1960


  • Grietjie Verhoef University of Johannesburg



Nationalism, Upliftment, Work ethic, Self-constitution, Empowerment, Economic growth, Nasionalisme, Opheffing, Werksetiek, Selfgelding, Bemagtiging, Ekonomiese groei


The rise of Afrikaner capital and entrepreneurial advancement since the first decade of the 20th century, made a firm contribution to the economic development of South Africa. Weberian thought on civil society and work ethic permeated in the speeches, publications and public statements by leaders associated with the establishment of early Afrikaner business in South Africa. The Weberian work ethic paradigm and the responsibilities of the individual in society offer a framework for the understanding of the establishment of trust and a motive for social mobilisation to address social problems, such as poverty. Different vehicles can be devised to effect such mobilisation and empowerment. In the history of Afrikaner people in South Africa, the insurance company SANLAM, amongst various other Afrikaner organisations, was pivotal to that effect, although not exclusively for one ethnic entity. The article analyses the manifestation of Weberian Protestant work ethic (PWE) in the formative years of Afrikaner business in South Africa by exploring the critical interplay between the vision of a better future and the institutional framework imperative for economic development. It is argued that notions of civil responsibility, work ethic, calling, discipline and trust were prerequisites for economic advancement, driven by the people for the people. In a multi-cultural society, SANLAM leaders mobilised civil society to address persistent poverty amongst Afrikaners. Africa, as a continent with similar challenges, can benefit from a re-assessment of this history.


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How to Cite

Verhoef, G. (2016). Work and save: Mobilising work ethic for Afrikaner empowerment, 1918 to 1960. Southern Journal for Contemporary History, 41(2), 53-81.