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Kenya and South Africa are two settings in which the upwardly-aspiring ‘new middle class’ has been particularly noted: its members desire to transcend the hierarchies and inequalities that once kept some from achieving prosperity. Based on research in South Africa, this article goes beyond a focus on narrowly economic aspects of this class to explore the role of the Pentecostal or neo-charismatic churches in articulating and (re)shaping its subjective values and orientations. Alongside expectations of abundant wealth, these churches affirm the positive qualities that work can endow, a capitalist-style interest in property investment, an inculcation of rational subdivision and allocation of one’s income to diverse ends, and a redistributive approach to economic arrangements. At the same time, church membership allows for self-reflection and critical citizenship: congregants have a nuanced self-awareness of the way in which their new status separates them from those with fewer privileges and less access to the benefits of modernity, and are able to deliberate reflexively about the character of these privileges.
James, D. (2019). New subjectivities: Aspiration, prosperity and the new middle class. African Studies, 78(1), 33–50. https://doi.org/10.1080/00020184.2018.1540516