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Cobley, Alan Gregor (1987) 'On the Shoulders of Giants': The Black Petty Bourgeoisie in Politics and Society in South Africa, 1924 to 1950. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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By the 1920's a mature black petty bourgeoisie was emerging in South Africa through the process of capitalist development, out of pre-existing black elites and out of new elites based mainly in the new industrial centres. These groups had relatively homogeneous social origins and cultural affiliations derived from the rural kholwa communities of the mid and late nineteenth centuries. Building on these origins, and in response to the increasing threats of economic marginalisation and state repression, by the 1930's the black petty bourgeoisie was deploying a wide range of class-specific social networks and cultural practices (using forms borrowed from the dominant classes) as a means of entrenching and reproducing its class position. The advantages held by the black petty bourgeoisie over the black working class were largely marginal throughout the period 1924 to 1950. This meant that there was always potential for cross-class alliances. However, even within the black bourgeoisie there was a significant degree of differentiation. A small upper stratum which was, for the most part, economically secure, contrasted with a much larger lower stratum which was always vulnerable to proletarianisation and subject to frequent inter-changes of members with the upper levels of various 'under classes'. Members of the black petty bourgeoisie virtually monopolised positions of social and political authority in black communities up to 1950. This had important consequences for the formulation and articulation of black political objectives at both local and national levels. Chapters One and Two investigate the economic background, social origins and cultural consciousness of the black petty bourgeoisie. Chapters Three, Four and Five consider the influence of special cultural factors, entrepreneurial ideologies and experiences, and radical ideologies and experiences. An overview is contained in a brief conclusion.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:21

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