Southall, Roger: "The New Black Middle Class in South Africa."(Book review)

Author:Nti, Kwaku
 
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Southall, Roger. The New Black Middle Class in South Africa. Suffolk: United Kingdom: James Currey, 2016.

Social Scientist Roger Southall veers from contemporary tangents in The New Black Middle Class in South Africa. In his estimation, doing so constitutes a much needed new focal point from which to discuss South Africa's black middle class, correcting previous one-dimensional approaches and ensuring a complex and comprehensive picture of a powerful and significant segment of this post-Apartheid nation. Southall grounds his work in that of Leo Kuper's An African Bourgeoisie: Race, Class and Politics in South Africa, but applies an entirely different mode of analysis in viewing the drastically altered history of the nation, which, once in an overwhelmingly pathetic situation of systematic racial discrimination under an Apartheid regime, presently boasts limitless opportunities amidst power and access to resources. This discussion of the entrenched category of South African Africans within "the middle range of hierarchies of income, wealth, property ownership, and occupation" is set against a backdrop of a wider body of theories including, but not limited to, Marxist and Weberian, in order to enhance the understanding of its origins, motivations, and dynamics as well as relations with other strata in the country (p. 1). The book's nine well-written chapters are amply supported with statistical tables.

Southall avers that the origins of South Africa's African middle class is traceable to the very limited educational opportunities provided by the Western Christian missionaries "of a variety of nationalities and denominations which became increasingly active from the nineteenth century onwards" (p. 25). Unfortunately, its growth suffered inhibition by a predominant settler capitalism "save in so far as the white minority regime required ... subaltern black allies, and from the 1970s, began to address shortage of white skilled labor by increasing the provision of black education and housing" (p. 24). Although educated Africans were left in no doubt regarding their subordinate status in the colonial social hierarchy, among their own people their education accorded them significant material rewards and social prestige. Their homogeneity as a visibly privileged social group was fostered by bonds of friendship, marriage, and formation of professional associations.

The 1980s saw the emergence of a small but growing number of African managers referred...

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