How government works is not simply a function of its internal mechanics and cultures. State organisations are embedded in broader social relations that affect what they can and cannot. The compliance of citizens’ in paying tariffs and fees sets the limits on what is possible for departments and agencies. The relationships between government workers and broader social and political entities – families, friends, clans, unions, political parties – determine the relative autonomy of administrations relative to broader society. What is more, ideologically-informed choices about the role of the state and/or the limits of sovereignty mean that all sorts of private, commercial, informal bodies and agencies emerge to perform roles traditionally performed by governments and to regulate social relations. We explores the kinds of community emerging in these spaces. Our interest is in the institutional arrangements underpinning new social forms. In this regard, we have been exploring one of the most dramatic features of social change in South Africa over the last 30 year: the coincidence between the huge growth of townhouse complexes and the formation of the new middle class.