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D+C Vol.42.2015:2 37 their relative privileges against the incur- sions of poorer classes than champion al- ternatives that would help to reduce pov- erty. They are not about to become progressive drivers of social reforms that would benefit the majority. China’s middle class, for instance, is more concerned with retaining its privi- leges and remaining loyal to the state that made its social advancement possible than it is interested in greater social jus- tice and equality. The middle classes help the regime to maintain the status quo. South America’s middle classes have his- torically tended to side with reactionary regimes and coups rather than fight for social reforms. Lack of solidarity Middle classes in African countries are hardly influential, and they have recently proved to not be particularly democratic. When Afrobarometer surveyed attitudes towards democracy on the continent, the middle classes came across as rather elit- ist. They think that the “uneducated” are not qualified to vote since these people supposedly do not understand what is ac- tually at stake in elections. The middle classes do not have much to contribute to discussions on the need for a new social contract to build the basis for sustainable development. The lack of soli- darity they exhibit in national societies is palpable at the international level as well. Ultimately, the hype surrounding the middle classes seems to be aimed at creat- ing the false impression that they will shape the future. They will not. Existing power structures make that impossible. The mid- dle classes cannot fix issues that are outside their immediate sphere of influence and power. To a large extent, the discussion about the middle classes is a distraction from the real challenges we face. Henning Melber is the director emeritus of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in Uppsala and an extraordinary professor at the University of Pretoria and the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein. [email protected] References: Birdsall, N., 2010: The (indispensable) middle class in developing countries. Washington: Center for Global Development (Working Paper 207). Bratton, M., 2013: Voting and democratic citizenship in Africa: Where next? In: Bratton, M. (ed.): Voting and democratic citizenship in Africa. Boulder, Colorado and London. Kaufmann, D., Kharas, H., and Penciakova, V., 2012: Development, aid and governance measures: Middle class measures. Washington, DC. development-aid-governance-indicators Kharas, H., 2010: The emerging middle class in developing countries. Paris: OECD Development Centre (Working Paper; 285). OECD, 2011: Perspectives of global development. Paris. Piketty, T., 2014: Capital in the twenty-first century. Cambridge. Ravallion, M., 2009: The developing world’s bulging (but vulnerable) “middle class”. Washington, DC: The World Bank/ Development Research Group (Policy Research Working Paper; 4816). Therborn, G., 2012: Class in the 21st century. In: New Left Review, No. 78. Böthling/Photography Shopping centre in Mumbai: middle classes are more interested in privileges than democracy.