Beyond Class? Why We Need an Elaborated Framework to Analyze Social Structure.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Dieter NEUBERT, University of Bayreuth, Germany
The current debate on middle class in Africa is a kind of turning point. For decades social inequality and questions of social structure focused on poverty. With the interest in middle class, the debate widens again. However, the current debate has serious shortcomings. The debate uses a class concept that does not consider that many middle class members combine different sources of income such as salary, small and medium enterprise, and agriculture. Classical social groups like “workers” “petit bourgeoisie” or “farmers” do not capture the reality; and the division between rural and urban population ignore that many families have urban and rural homes. Class concepts assume a certain stability of class affiliation. Nevertheless, a large part of the “Middle class” lives in uncertainty with up- and downward mobility. The socio-economic position is not simply defined by qualification or wealth but depends on but also on access to socio-political networks based on religion, ethnicity or patronage and on the access to formal social security and informal security networks. Research on gender shows that there is socio-economic inequality inside families. The improved options for consumption show especially in the middle-income stratum very different life-styles, attitudes and political convictions. This contradicts the assumption of a general class-consciousness