(Middle) Class Analysis in Africa: Does It Work?

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 00:00
Oral Presentation
Roger SOUTHALL, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
The dominance of the democratization/good governance paradigm ensured the decline of class analysis in Africa from the early 1990s. Yet recently, there has been a revival of interest in class – notably the ‘Middle class’. While much of this analysis is economistic (and has been subject to extensive critique about what is meant by ‘middle’), there are also a growing number of studies which espouse historico-political and/or ethnographic approaches. While much of this work is highly illuminating, it is curiously divorced from classic class analysis, focusing instead upon middle classness as a matter of identity. However, if class analysis is to be taken seriously, then any middle class needs to be located within an overall class structure. This certainly works in South Africa, where industrialization brought forth a class structure which was recognizable from both Marxian and Weberian perspectives. But is it equally applicable in less industrialized countries? This paper will argue that it does.