Are the politics lost on the middle class? Are those who lay outside of positions of power, but above the realm of the persecuted, unmotivated to change the status quo? That is exactly what South African political theorist and professor Mzukisi Qobo believes, as his article accuses the country’s middle class of being politically passive. While Qobo’s piece published in South Africa’s Business Day focuses specifically on the country’s own people, many of Qobo’s central points can be directed at America’s own political sphere.
“Being one of the better-resourced segments in society, especially in terms of education, access to various levers of influence and the ability to project its voice in the public domain, much is expected of the middle classes,” Qobo wrote. “Sadly, it would seem dealing with political challenges is a responsibility they are content to leave to politicians.”
Qobo accuses the middle class of having grown complacent in the years since the country achieved democracy and began reversing the effects of years of apartheid. He maintains that without conscious involvement on a personal level, the quality of the South African democracy will go on to decline. Though the middle class is responsible for the largest portion of government financing through taxes, they have yet to seize any sort of meaningful control.
“We seem to hold a very limited and disempowering view of leadership as something that others — and mostly politicians — should exercise, rather than as something that we as citizens are also capable of,” Qobo said. “We see our role as limited to offering criticism from a place of detachment.”
In South Africa, as well as the United States, the middle class should have a larger voice, separate from that of the disenfranchised, or even the privileged. A powerful, unified middle class would have greater potential for influence than any other social group, if they made the choice to be active. However, with a passive middle class allowing politicians to lead unchecked, the current establishment has no reason to progress.