1st Edition

The Political Nature of a Ruling Class Capital and Ideology in South Africa 1890–1933

By Belinda Bozzoli Copyright 1981
    396 Pages
    by Routledge

    First published in 1981, The Political Nature of a Ruling Class is a study of the role played by the ‘organic intellectuals’, who were attached to the capitalist class in South Africa, in shaping the processes of state and class formation in the crucial decades when the foundations of modern South Africa were being laid.

    The book examines how the political and ideological character of the imperialist, ‘British South African’, mining bourgeoisie was formed, which revolutionised southern Africa and remained dominant until the First World War, and how a national bourgeoisie emerged and later came to prevail which differed both as a political force and as the bearer of a new ‘South Africanist’ ideology. In both cases, the activities of the intellectuals are explained in terms of the economic imperatives of accumulation and the capitalists’ conflicts with other classes, and in each case, racism is viewed in the light of the overall system of hegemony created by capital. The origins of South African capitalism are examined finally from the point of view of one group of people—the capitalists themselves.

    A concrete and readable account of capitalists and their ideologies, this contribution to theories both of class and state formation and of the relationship between political, cultural, ideological and economic forces will be of importance to students and researchers of African studies and political science.

    Introduction  1. The mining revolution  2. The hierarchy of exploitation  3. The seeds of a national bourgeoisie  4. The emerging contender  5. The foundations of the white state  6. A second revolution  Conclusion


    Belinda Bozzoli was one of South Africa's leading historical sociologists with a distinguished career in academia. She served in a variety of leadership roles at Wits, including Head of Sociology (1996–1998); Head of the School of Social Sciences (2001–2003) and, ultimately, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research. Having reached retirement age at Wits, Belinda entered politics and successfully stood for Parliament in the 2014 election under the Democratic Alliance (DA)'s banner. She was appointed as the DA's Shadow Minister for Higher Education and Training (the portfolio was expanded to include Science and Technology after the 2019 election), a position for which she was equipped with a wealth of experience. 

    Review of the first publication:

    ‘This extensive and lucid study spans the years 1890-1933, years which, as [the author] points out, are particularly rich in insights into the nature of the ruling class as a whole, its experience of class formation, and relation between class and the emergence of the state.’

    Ruth Tomaselli, Critical Arts, Volume 2, Issue 2