African Middle Classes: Formation and Destabilizing Effects

  • Jason Musyoka
Part of the Frontiers of Globalization book series (FOG)


This chapter demonstrates how the formation and expansion of middle classes in Africa have taken place within particular economic and political contexts. Research has either focused on the size of African middle classes and the related implications for development (what the author calls the dimension school) or on their political role (termed the statist school), considering them as too attached to the state to criticize or oppose it. The shortcomings of both approaches, Musyoka argues, can be explained by the middle class’ entanglement in a ‘double middle’ identity. The ‘first middle’ (the vertical middle) relates to class categorizations in terms of upper, middle, and lower classes. From a neo-Marxist perspective, the author argues that the danger of sliding back into poverty creates a potential for aggressive social and political action among members of African middle classes, to avoid downward mobility. The situatedness of African middle classes between poor past generations and a future generation which requires economic support constitutes a ‘second middle’ (horizontal middle). Both the vertical and horizontal identities produce political and social actions based on visions of sustainable incomes and wealth access, which can be contradictory to prevailing theoretical approaches.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason Musyoka
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa

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