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Social stratification and the constitution of urban middle classes in Maputo city. A case study

Start of the project: 2012

Ph.D. student: Peter R. Beck

Contact data

Telephone: 0921-55-4116
Fax: 0921-55-4118

Project description

Social stratification and class building processes in contemporary African societies are still largely understudied phenomena. Mozambique is no exception. Current research approaches apply econometric inequality measures, as in household surveys, that disconnected from any consideration of social stratification and class, and how it impacts on the distribution of opportunities, resources, and life chances.

In order to fill the gap and deliver a case study on middle classes and stratification in urban Mozambique we apply Savage, Ward & Devenne’s recommendation and focus on the “the effects of class” and how they “are produced through individual actions drawing variously on ‘assets”.’1 For this purpose we shall rely on a combination of Pierre Bourdieu’s inspired conceptual – theoretical framework of capital assets and social space locations, and rational choice theoretical approach referring to Crozier & Friedberg’s strategic action concept, developed in the context of organization theory and research. The following table resumes the conceptual theoretical approach. The structure action dimensions are recurrently interacting and the outcomes can be described in terms of institutionalization of stratified relationships and social change.

Based on existing middle classes classifications and characteristics features allowing to distinguish ‘urban middle classes’ from other social classes, empirical research will be conducted through interviews with a non-probability sample of representatives of middle class fractions fulfilling the minimum requirements for comparative data analysis (Bouma & Atkinson 1995). Data collection will be done in form of semi structured interviews prong comparability, and observations. The expected outcome is to deliver a description of define specific structural patterns characteristic to each of the identified middle class fractions, - assets, social field location, and life styles, and to assess the respective strategic orientations, objectives and preferences.

This research will be completed by statistical and historical information of social structural data, and on political and socioeconomic developments, such as privatization process, and how these events reflect in life careers, decision making processes and its outcomes. Therefore interviewing will put a special emphasis on the he biographical information in order to create the capacity i) to reconstruct the dynamical aspects of class building process, that is the strategic objectives, choices and use to which available ‘capitals, assets, and resources, as well as ii) respective value patterns and lifestyle concepts which can be used for distinguishing Habitus structures and its evolutions, indicating processes of social and cultural changes (see Bourdieu 1979). Only then will it possible to assess to what degree urban middle classes are capable and willing to play the attributed stabilizing roles as agents of economic and political modernization. Last but not least we understand the empirical middle class case study as a mean for testing of the validity of the conceptual theoretical framework for the research of class and stratification processes in developing countries.

Appendix: Conceptual - theoretical Framework (Bourdieu (1979/1985) & RTC – Crozier & Friedberg 1976)

Dimensions Structural dimension Behavioral dimension Structural heterogeneity
Structural dimension 1. Social Fields: (action frame)
Actors locations in social (status and class/market) positions
2. Habitus structures: (cultural rule sets)
Acquired preference patterns of values, belief systems, routine practices (life styles), and levels of aspirations, as produced during process of milieu bound socialization.‘
Modern vs. traditional rule sets and status definitions
Situational dimension (concrete action system) Opportunity Structures – distribution of 5. Stakes (monopolizing rent opportunities) Interest patterns and targets Strategic use of Interlock positions
Access conditions – forms of social closure 6. Alliances and Competitions2 ('games') utility driven strategic actions
Behavioral dimension 3. Capitals: (resources)
Distribution of and access to power resources (economic, social, cultural and positional) related to social field locations
4. Strategic actions: (social interactions and associations)
described in terms of RTC
Bureaucratic/market bound assets vs. traditional society resources (lineage, cultural and geographical)

1 Mike Savage, Allan Ward, Fiona Devine (2005), Capitals, assets and resources: some critical issues, British Journal of Sociology, vol. 56, issue, 1, p. 32.

2 Weber has defined competition as a “peaceful conflict” oriented in gaining “over opportunities that others are also interested in”. Weber, in Richard Swedberg (1998) Max Weber and the idea of economic sociology, Princeton, p. 34.

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