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Stratification, ways of life and socio-political orientations in Kenya and Cote d´Ivoire

In the last decades, many parts of Africa have considerably due to large-scale and long-term processes of economic globalization, social change, and political reform. Rising income, urbanization and new ways of life are major influences on the populations. In the social science literature, this is reflected in new trends and strands of literature:

  • Firstly, a discussion about “rising middle classes” in sociology, economy, and anthropology has tried to make sense of economic determinants and life styles of an increasingly prevalent and relevant social stratum.
  • Secondly, recent political science has seen a renewed interest in the social profiles, career patterns, and attitudes of political elites in Africa as drivers of political reform or preservers of authoritarian or semi-authoritarian politics.
  • Thirdly, a traditionally rich body of literature on poverty and poverty reduction already exists in the field of development economics. In addition, there are anthropological studies that seek to explore life styles of certain affected groups, for example the rural poor or urban youths.

While each of these research fields poses its own genuine challenges, especially the literature on middle classes and elites has called for a broader approach to social stratification and inequality. How can social strata be distinguished from each other, how are societies structured? Are concepts like social class or social milieu appropriate categories to understand contemporary societies? While this is a generally controversial theme in sociology, political science, and economy, the research gap on Africa is particularly large, and more general recent work on population structures and sociocultural particularities is missing.

The aim of our project is to propose a theoretical and methodological framework of socio-economic stratification. We are not only interested in economic inequality but more specifically in the relationship between economic factors like occupation, income, or geographic location (urban/rural) and life styles, social practices, beliefs and attitudes. This leads to two main questions that the project aims to address: Which socioeconomic types of stratification mechanisms of inequality are at work? How do they interact with sociocultural particularities and forms of political participation?