Simone Schotte

The Anxious and the Climbers: Ambivalent Attitudes towards Democracy among South Africa’s Middle Class

GIGA Working Paper, No. 304, June 2017

Abstract
Beyond the hopes placed in Africa’s emergent middle class as an engine of economic growth, some analysts see this group as a bastion of political stability and enduring democratisation across the continent. This paper’s approach differs from that of most studies, which treat the middle class as a homogeneous group, through two key contributions. First, using cluster analysis, I propose a novel way of conceptualising social class that broadly draws on the Weberian idea of shared life chances. I apply this method to South Africa and identify five social classes characterised by their members’ living standards, overall life satisfaction, and self‐perceived upward mobility. Second, the empirical analysis reveals significant discrepancies in attitudes towards democracy between the downwardly and upwardly mobile strata of the middle class, which I term the “anxious” and the “climbers,” respectively. On the one hand, the “climbers” show the highest generic support for democracy as a form of government, whereas the “anxious” middle class displays feelings of resignation. On the other hand, I find indicative evidence of a status‐quo bias among the “climbers.” Rather than assuming a more demanding or critical stance in politics, they allow their political priorities to be at least partly shaped by an interest in securing and expanding attained living standards; being upwardly mobile is even associated with a higher tolerance for government attempts to constrain freedom of information, opinion, or expression.

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GIGA AutorInnen

Simone Schotte ist Doktorandin am GIGA und Mitglied des Graduiertenkollegs „Globalisierung und Entwicklung“ (GLAD) an der Georg-August-Universität Göttingen.

Aktuelle Publikationen der AutorInnen

Insa Flachsbarth / Simone Schotte / Jann Lay / Alberto Garrido

Rural structural change, poverty and income distribution: evidence from Peru

The Journal of Economic Inequality, 16, 2018, 4, 631-653

Simone Schotte / Rocco Zizzamia / Murray Leibbrandt

A poverty dynamics approach to social stratification: The South African case

World Development, 110, 2018, 88-103

Simone Schotte / Hernan Winkler

Why are the Elderly More Averse to Immigration when they are More Likely to Benefit? Evidence Across Countries

International Migration Review, 52, 2018, 4, 1250-1282

Maurizio Bussolo / Simone Schotte / Mikhail Matytsin

Accounting for the bias against the life-cycle hypothesis in survey data: An example for Russia

The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, 9, 2017, 185-207

Rocco Zizzamia / Simone Schotte / Murray Leibbrandt

Vulnerability and the Middle Class in South Africa

SALDRU policy brief, 2017