The Narrative of ‘the African Middle Class’ and Its Conceptual Limitations

  • Dieter Neubert
  • Florian Stoll
Part of the Frontiers of Globalization book series (FOG)


The core of the ‘middle class narrative’ points to the purchasing power of the growing ‘middle class’ and its stimulating effect on the African economy. Promoted by the media and consultancies, the term appears to relate to a growing, homogeneous, financially fluid, and politically outspoken section of society. Against this background, the main aim of this chapter is to discuss critically the conceptual limitations of this term—the ‘African middle class’. To date, social structure analyses relating to the Global South have analysed socio-economic ‘strata’, or ‘class’ in a (neo-)Marxist or Weberian sense, or ‘class’ without specific parameters. The existence of a middle socio-economic stratum, however, does not imply the presence of a socio-culturally homogeneous ‘class’ in Marxian or Weberian terms. To analyse socio-cultural differentiation we propose two concepts developed in German sociology: ‘socio-cultural milieus’ and ‘small lifeworlds’.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dieter Neubert
    • 1
  • Florian Stoll
    • 1
  1. 1.Bayreuth UniversityBayreuthGermany

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