Pre-Industrial and Industrial Racial Stratification in South Africa

  • Robert Ross
Part of the Comparative Studies in Overseas History book series (CSOH, volume 4)


Let us begin with an assumption: the most fitting category with which to analyse the patterns of stratification within modern South Africa are Weberian estates. The problem about so doing, however, is to find a suitable definition of what Weber (or anyone else for that matter) meant by “estates”. Weber himself emphasised honour and style of life as the main determinants of an estate, a status situation, while later commentors have stressed that estates are recruited very largely in terms of primordial loyalties. Individuals are born into estates, but “bot propertied and propertyless peoples can belong to the same status group, and frequently they do, with very tangible consequences”. Thus the nations, “tribes” and ethnic groups of southern Africa would seem, at first sight, to be estates, although the Weberian criterion of “honour” would have to be replaced by others stressing the ways in which conquest situations created designation of people with presumed distinct ancestry and thus ascription.1


White Worker Marxist Theory South African Society African History Racial Stratification 
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© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, The Hague/Boston/London 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Ross

There are no affiliations available

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