Despite the fact that the “rise of the black middle class” is one of the most visible aspects of post-apartheid society and a major actor in the reshaping of South African society, analysis of it has been lacking. Rather, the image presented by the media has been of “black diamonds”, that is, above all, as consumers of the products of advanced industrial society, and of corrupt “tenderpreneurs” who use their political connections to obtain contracts which they would otherwise be denied. At the same time, the restrictions upon black professional and entrepreneurial activity in the apartheid era stunted the development of black capitalism and the black middle class, while the growth of a substantial black working class which became the class vanguard of the political liberation of South Africa, pushed the role of the middle class into the shadows.
This book presents a new way of looking at the Black Middle Class which seeks to complicate that picture, an analysis that reveals the impact of its role in the recent history of South Africa. It provides a careful account of its historical development in colonial society prior to 1994 before examining the size, shape and structure of the middle class in contemporary South Africa, class formation under the ANC, education and black upward social mobility, the black middle class at work, the social life of the black middle class, and its political role in the shaping of a democratic society in the post-apartheid era.
The trajectory of the black middle class in South Africa is related to that of its counterparts in the Global South. While the book offers the most comprehensive account of the black middle class since Leo Kuper wrote on the subject in the early 1960s, it also seeks to make a major contribution to the burgeoning debate about the middle class globally.
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