The political economy of white working class housing in Johannesburg, 1890-1906

Show simple item record Lange, Maria Lis 2011-02-14T09:44:20Z 2011-02-14T09:44:20Z 1996-09-16
dc.description African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented 16 September 1996 en_US
dc.description.sponsorship The discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand was followed by the proclamation of public diggings in 1886. Ten years later (1897) when Johannesburg was given municipal status, it had a population of 102,000 inhabitants and extended over 5 square miles. By 1904 the population had increased to 158,000 and the city covered 82 square miles. From the outset land was the most important area of investment outside the mines of the Witwatersrand goldfields. The monopoly that township companies and mining houses, through their estate companies, exercised over the land had a direct bearing on the high rents and general lack of housing in the city. In the aftermath of the South African War (1899-1902) the new colonial state embarked on large scale social engineering aimed at the stabilisation of the white working class on the Rand. An essential part of this strategy was to achieve the reproduction of the white working class through the agency of the nuclear family. Instrumental to this project was the encouragement of the immigration of British working class families to the Transvaal. This policy was going to be seriously, though not exclusively, undermined by the characteristics of the land and housing market in Johannesburg. South African historians have emphasised the importance and scope of Miner's social engineering. Nevertheless, they have not explained the seemingly contradictory lack of direct state intervention in the housing problem. This paper suggests that it is necessary to rethink the economic, political and social imperatives of the Reconstruction period (1901-1906), particularly in what refers to the formation of the white working class, in the light of the new research on urban development and town planning in South Africa and other western capitalist cities. This paper will try to combine both the study of the political economy of white working class housing with the social history of working class accommodation in Johannesburg between 1890 and 1906. It will be shown first that the characteristics of landownership in Johannesburg conditioned not only the availability of actual housing but also the implementation of certain aspects of town planning proposed by the government. Secondly, it will become clear that state intervention in the housing problem was shaped by a mixture of laissez-faire and social engineering which in turn conditioned white working class settlement in Johannesburg. Finally, it will be shown that, in spite of being in line with world trends, town planning in Johannesburg had specific features which derived from the colonial situation. en_US
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.relation.ispartofseries Institute for Advanced Social Research;ISS 240
dc.subject Whites. Housing. South Africa. Johannesburg. History en_US
dc.subject Working class. Housing. South Africa. Johannesburg. History en_US
dc.title The political economy of white working class housing in Johannesburg, 1890-1906 en_US
dc.type Working Paper en_US

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