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The New Black Middle Class in South Africa

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The struggles for upward mobility and respectability of the black middle class in post-apartheid society

– Kerry Kennedy, President, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

The rise of the black middle class is one of the most striking developments in post-apartheid South Africa. Yet while this new class has been a major actor in the reshaping of the country, public attention, especially in the media, has largely focused upon the image of ‘black diamonds’ – black consumers – and ‘tenderpreneurs’ who use their political connections to obtain lucrative contracts.

“An extraordinarily wide-ranging and comprehensive analysis of the process of class formation in South Africa ... informed by a complex range of insights from sociology, history, geography and political science.”

– Professor Deborah James, London School of Economics

The New Black Middle Class in South Africa provides a much-needed corrective that considers the black middle class as a key actor in the development of South African society. It recounts the history of the class prior to 1994, examines its size, shape and structure, explores the role of the ANC and education in promoting black upward social mobility, and reviews the challenges faced by the black middle class at work and in society more generally. It concludes with an analysis of the ambiguous role played by the black middle class in the shaping of a democratic society.

“An important study … The history, sociology and politics of the black middle class in contemporary South Africa is a significant topic; it is scantily addressed in existing scholarship; and the author tackles it head on. The treatment is based upon wide reading and an impressive command of the literature … the arguments and findings are judicious and persuasive. It … will enhance existing analysis of contemporary South African political economy.”

– Colin Bundy, former Principal of Green Templeton College, Oxford


About the Author

Roger Southall is Professor Emeritus in Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand. His previous books include South Africa’s Transkei: The Political Economy of an ‘Independent’ Bantustan (1983), Imperialism or Solidarity? International Labour and South African Trade Unions (1995), An African Peace Process: Mandela, South Africa and Burundi (with Kristina Bentley, (2005) and Liberation Movements in Power: Party and State in Southern Africa (2013).


Parameters of Book: 
Author: Roger Southall
ISBN: 9781431423163
d-PDF ISBN:  
ePUB ISBN:  
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Size (mm): 235x155mm
Pages: 320pp
Format: Paperback
Colour: Black and White
Rights: South African Rights
Language: English
Publication Date: February 2016