For a while now I’ve been very interested in the role of the Kenyan middle class in our democratic development. So i’ve gone back to the books…

According to widely respected Political Scientists Rueschemeyer Stephens and Stephens in their book on Capitalist Development and Democracy, capitalist growth is “associated with democracy because it transforms the class structure, enlarging the working and middle classes, facilitating their self-organization, and thus making it more difficult for elites to exclude them. Simultaneously, development weakens the landed upper class, democracy’s most consistent opponent. The relationship of capitalist development to democracy, however, is not mechanical. As the authors show, it depends on a complex interplay of three clusters of power: the balance of power among social classes, power relations between the state and society, and transnational structures of economic and political power”

The question for Kenya’s democracy is whether the interplay of these three clusters of power is in favour of our democracy.

I would argue that they are not quite yet. Indeed the new bloated cabinet and government that was sworn in last week shows that the balance of power in Kenyan society still favours the elites and that the Kenyan middle class, as was represented by members of civil society who were teargassed as the protested the bloated cabinet, has not yet formed enough of a power base to effectively challenge the elites.

The balance of power in the second power cluster, that between the state and society is still not in favour of Kenya’s democracy. Again this is evidenced by the ability of the state to unleash security personnel on protesting civil society not to mention the protesters in Kibera and Kisumu among other places.

Finally, I think that now, more than in the past, the transnational structures of political and economic powers are in favour of Kenyan democracy. Yes, there are major problems in the location of Kenya in the global economic matrix. But still, the fact that for the last couple of years we have been able to read a national budget that did not heavily rely on foreign aid means that we are, to a limited extent, free to chart the course of our democracy.

My advise to those pursuing the growth of democracy in Kenya: focus on pressuring the new parliament to enact legislation that will expand the size and power of the working and middle classes.

First among this legislation needs to be a strengthening of the legal system and particularly a strengthening of private property rights including limiting corruption.

Private property rights not only includes the rights of those dispossessed in the Rift Valley, but also ensuring justice in land allocation to those communities who feel that their land resources have been usurped by Kikuyus.

For more on the importance of private property rights on capitalist growth see Hernado De Soto’s explanation

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