• Delhi;
  • India;
  • new middle class;
  • informal service sector;
  • urban governance


Urban India is undergoing transformation as formal electoral politics increasingly favors the new middle class. Scholarship tends to compartmentalize the politics of the new middle class and the poor, and this article focuses on inter-class relations. By focusing on relations between street hawkers and the new middle class in Delhi, I show that rather than engaging in zero-sum conflicts over urban space, conflict is typically over the terms of its use. The analysis shows that these classes are interdependent; the poor depend on the new middle class for their livelihoods, and the lifestyles of new middle class are enabled by services provided by the poor. While the poor enable and participate in Delhi's transformation into a so-called “world-class” city, the reconciliation of competing visions of urbanization—one geared toward social reproduction and the other subsistence—is what is at stake in contemporary inter-class relations.