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

Research Fellow / Doctoral Student

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

Aktuelle Publikationen der AutorInnen

Simone Schotte / Rocco Zizzamia / Murray Leibbrandt

Social stratification, life chances and vulnerability to poverty in South Africa

SALDRU Working Paper, 208, 2017

Lena Giesbert / Simone Schotte

Book Review: Roger Southall (2016), The New Black Middle Class in South Africa

Africa Spectrum, 51, 2016, 3, 135-139

Lena Giesbert / Birte Pfeiffer / Simone Schotte

Umstrittene Freihandelsabkommen mit der EU: Afrika unter (Handels-)Druck

GIGA Focus Afrika, 07/2016

Rocco Zizzamia / Simone Schotte / Murray Leibbrandt / Vimal Ranchhod

Vulnerability and the middle class in South Africa

SALDRU Working Paper, 188 / NIDS Discussion Paper 2016/15, 2016

Lena Giesbert / Simone Schotte

Afrikas neue Mittelschicht: Fakten und Fiktionen ihrer transformativen Kraft

GIGA Focus Afrika, 01/2016