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The black middle class and democracy in South Africa*

  • Roger Southall (a1)

Against the background of celebrations about the rise of a middle class in Africa and its widely posited role in promoting democracy, this paper explores the politics of the black middle class in South Africa. It does so by examining three propositions: first, that the black middle class was a positive force in the struggle for liberation and democracy; second, that post-1994 strategies of the African National Congress (ANC) government which have benefited it secure its political alignment with the ANC's ‘party-state’; and third, that its growth and increasing diversity will contribute to the consolidation of democracy. The conclusion drawn is that while the black middle class may indeed play an important role in furthering democracy, its political orientations and behaviour cannot be assumed to be inherently progressive.

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An earlier version of this article was presented as a Van Zyl Slabbert public lecture at the University of Cape Town in November 2013.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

M. Hunter 2010. ‘Racial desegregation and schooling in South Africa: contested geographies of class formation’, Environment and Planning A 42: 2640–57.

S. Levitsky & L. Way . 2010. Competitive Authoritarianism: hybrid regimes after the cold war. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

R. Southall 2005. ‘Political change and the black middle class in democratic South Africa’, Canadian Journal of African Studies 38, 3: 521–42.

E.O. Wright 1982. ‘Class boundaries and contradictory class locations’, in A. Giddens & D. Held (eds), Class, Power and Conflict: classical and contemporary debates. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 112–29.

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The Journal of Modern African Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-278X
  • EISSN: 1469-7777
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-modern-african-studies
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