The size and composition of the South African middle class : implications for a consolidating democracy

Garcia Rivero, Carlos (2000)

Thesis (DPhil) -- Stellenbosch University, 2000.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study attempts to reach some conclusions about the possibility of the South African democracy to endure. It does so through entering into the so-called preconditions for democracy field, concretely, by the observation of the changes in and the composition of the South African middle class as a feature of democratic consolidation. Middle classes are regarded as an important political actor in democratisation and it is difficult to fmd a stable democracy without a well-developed and large middle class. Actually, the democratisation movements have mostly been led by middle classes. Moreover, the size of the middle class in a particular society is also indicative of the level of income inequality, which is another important indicator for the success of democratisation. From a theoretical perspective, the study presents the different existing approaches to democratisation in general, and to middle class democracy in particular. Then, it focuses on a case study: South Africa. The variables for the research then are, "middle class" as an independent variable; and "democratic consolidation" as a dependent variable. The hypothesis that links them therefore is as follows: The larger the middle class, the greater the chance for the consolidation of democracy. From an empirical perspective the research tests the above hypothesis by making use of extensive quantitative data. Both variables are then operationalised and their tendencies of growth are measured, presented and explained. Middle class is operationalised in terms of occupation. Consolidated democracy is operationalised in terms of political tolerance and trust in the institutions. Political tolerance refers to the procedural part of democracy, whereas trust relates to the substantive dimension of democracy. The major fin<iings arrived at are that, on one hand the middle class in South Africa is increasing in size and incorporating previously excluded sectors - mainly Blacks - but, on the other hand, democracy seems to be consolidating from a procedural point of view - increase in political tolerance -, but not from a substantive one - decrease in trust in the institutions. Consequently, the original hypothesis is reformulated as follows: An increase in the middle class in the first years of democracy indicates that democracy is consolidating "procedlfrally ". Against the background of these fmdings, room is left for further research that will provide information about whether a democracy can consolidate only procedurally or whether the substantive dimension of democracy is essential for successful consolidation. Further research will also confirm whether or not the recent increase in trust during 1999 signifies a real turning-point or whether it is due to other reasons.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie poog om tot 'n aantal gevolgtrekkings te kom oor die waarskynlikheid dat die Suid-Afrikaanse demokrasie in stand sal bly. Dit is benader deur 'n ondersoek na die voorvereistes vir demokrasie en, konkreet, deur die waarneming van veranderings in die samestelling van die Suid-Afrikaanse middelstand as 'n verskynsel van demokratiese konsolidasie. Die middelstand word as 'n belangrike politieke rolspeler in demokratisering beskou en dit is moeilik om 'n voorbeeld van 'n stabiele demokrasie waar daar nie 'n groot middel~tand is nie, te vind. In werklikheid is demokratiese bewegings meestal deur die middelstand gelei. Verder is die omvang van die middelstand binne 'n besondere gemeenskap ook aanduidend van die vlak van inkomste-ongelykheid, wat 'n verdere belangrike aanduider vir die sukses van demokratisering is. Vanuit 'n teoretiese perspektief hied die studie die verskillende bestaande benaderings tot demokratisering in die algemeen, en tot middelstand-demokrasie in besonder, aan. Dan verskuif die aandag na 'n gevallestudie van Suid-Afrika. Die veranderlikes vir die navorsing is "middelstand" as onafhanklike veranderlike en "demokratiese konsolidering" as afhanklike veranderlike. Die hipotese waardeur hulle in verband gestel word, is as volg: Hoe grater die middelstand, hoe grater die waarskynlikheid vir die konsolidasie van demokrasie. Vanuit 'n empiriese perspektief toets die navorsing die bogenoemde hipotese deur gebruik te maak van uitgebreide kwantitatiewe data. Albei veranderlikes word ge-operasionaliseer en hul groeitendense word gemeet, aangebied en verduidelik. Middelstand word in terme van beroep ge-operasionaliseer. Gekonsolideerde demokrasie word in terme van politieke verdraagsaamheid en vertroue in instellings ge-operasionaliseer. Politieke verdraagsaamheid bon verband met die prosedurele aspek van demokrasie, terwyl vertroue verband bon met die substantiewe dimensie van demokrasie. Die vemaamste bevindings waartoe gekom is, is, aan die een kant, dat die middelstand in Suid-Afrika besig is om uit te brei en voorheen uitgeslote sektore - veral Swartes - te inkorporeer en, aan die ander kant, dat demokrasie besig is om vanuit 'n prosedurele oogpunt - toename in politieke verdraagsaamheid - te konsolideer, maar nie vanuit 'n substantiewe oogpunt - afname van vertroue in die instellings - nie. Gevolglik word die oorspronklike hipotese soos volg herformuleer: 'n Toename in die middelstand gedurende die eerste }are van demokrasie dui aan dat die demokrasie besig is om ''prosedureel" te konsolideer. Teen die agtergrond van die bevindings is daar ruimte vir verdere navorsing wat inligting sal verskaf aangaande die moontlikheid daarvan dat 'n demokrasie net maar prosedureel kan konsolideer, en of die substantiewe dimensie essensieel is vir suksesvolle konsolidasie. Verdere navorsing sou ook kon bepaal of die voorafgaande toename in vertroue gedurende 1999 'n werklike ommekeer aandui, en of dit aan ander redes toegeskryf moet word.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/52024
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