The Elite in the City: Spaces and Structures of Inequality in Johannesburg

Part of the zu | schriften der Zeppelin Universität. zwischen Wirtschaft, Kultur und Politik book series (zszuzwkp)


This contribution aims at unlocking how the elite and the rich, through a complex system of justification of their position, create the standard of what is thought to be the good life and means to justify it. A plethora of actors concur to the creation of this standard of good life and they are intimately embedded in society at large.

South Africa is a structurally unequal country. Inequality is at first sight and is manifested brutally despite the fact that reducing the gap between the rich and the poor is the agenda of many public policies. I propose that one way to understand how inequality is perpetuated is to look at spaces of elitism. Building on a two year ethnographic work in two wealthy suburbs of Johannesburg, a gated golf estate and an established open suburb, I offer an understanding of the fabrication of the good life from an elite perspective and I speculate on how this produces the right to the city for the elite and the emergent middle class, which consist of specific way of living in the city, understanding its social and political spaces. I argue that looking at the city from an elite perspective, yet adopting a relational perspective, thus understanding the different ways in which the various “rights to the city” intersect, is crucial in unfolding dynamics of separation, distance and inequality in the city.


Service Delivery Good Life Informal Settlement Gated Community Relational Perspective 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.JohannesburgSüdafrika

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