Middle Class

Middle Class


Roland Mousnier argued that, despite “beginning with the conviction that social classes were indeed what Marxists mean by that term, that classes had started to exist when societies emerged from so-called primitive communism, and that class struggle was if not the whole of history at least one of its most important elements, my research with my students on societies and institutions brought us to quite different conclusions.We are now persuaded the Marxist
conception of social class only applies to certain kinds of societies and has been improperly extrapolated. If we want a general term for the great variety of social hierarchies, we will do better to use the expression social stratum, which designates a universal concept, a family.” (Mousnier, 1976, p. 5)

Steinberg stated that he has “argued that despite recent critiques from the linguistic turn, theories of historical class formation and of political process and resource mobilization provide essential windows on fundamental processes that have been and continue to be part of great transformations in the modern world. I have also maintained, however, that the critics raise compelling issues concerning the centrality of discourse in class formation and collective action. Although rejecting the linguistic turn’s alternatives, I have proposed revising Thompson’s perspective on class and the political process/resource-mobilization model of contentious action with discourse as a critical intervening process. Rather than choose between material and discursive analyses, we need to conjoin the explanatory powers that each perspective offers. (Steinberg, 1999, p. 229)

The anthropological views of Kalb were: “My case studies of class formation in subregions of
industrializing Brabant tend to illustrate that an anthropological interest in popular culture, discourse, and everyday life can, and indeed should, be wedded to social power and social process. This is so not only because power, change, and inequality are central aspects of social life that ought not be missed by any serious analyst of human affairs (that is, unless he or she accepts political irrelevance), but more importantly because class-oriented analysis can reveal crucial ambiguities, contradictions, divisions, limits, obstacles, and dynamics of culture that cannot be uncovered in other ways. In short, by consciously elaborating an approach based on a materialist idea of class with the intention to study social power and social process, I claim a more penetrating methodology for explaining and understanding culture. (Kalb, 1997, p. 2)

In a famous statement, Max Weber theory of relations to labor and commodity
markets, was as follows:

“Those who have no property but who offer services are differentiated just as much according to their kinds of services as according to the way in which they make use of these services, in a continuous or discontinuous relation to a recipient. But always this is the generic connotation of the concept of class: that the kind of chance in the market is the decisive moment which presents a common condition for the individual’s fate. Class situation is, in this sense, ultimately market situation. The effect of naked possession per se, which among cattle breeders gives the non-owning slave or serf into the power of the cattle owner, is only a fore-runner of real
‘‘class’’ formation.” (Weber, 1968, vol. 2, p. 928)

Szreter argued that the “evidence presented here suggests that falling fertility among this part of the nation was far from a process graded by neat and identifiable, nationally applicable status or social class patterns. It was the relatively massive, and highly localised variations between communities, especially in the degree to which their labour markets were sexually segregated and divided, which may well largely account for occupational fertility differentials during this period of falling fertilities. This was something which was integrally linked to the history of local industrial relations and work practices in each of these places.” (Szreter, 1996, p. 364)

History of the Middle Class

As Jan De Vries succinctly wrote in “Economy of Europe in an Age of Crisis, 1600–1750”:

“Beginning in 1602 a rapid succession of new problems overwhelmed [the Venetian republic]. The spice trade was lost for good to the Dutch and English who had now begun their penetration of the Indian Ocean; the textile industry suffered from high costs and withered away in the following half-century; the city’s position as an international center of book publishing became untenable because of the rejuvenated Catholic Church; the Thirty Years’ War deprived Venice of her most important market while the debasement of the Turkish currency sharply increased the cost of cotton and silk up to the Venetians.

In an economy like this one it would have taken a very great innovatory capacity indeed—multiplied many times over—for the economy to sustain itself at anything like the levels of the previous century. And it is very likely that even that would not have worked. In such an environment, commercial people make choices, and typically they choose safety rather then risk. (De Vries, 1976, p. 26)


See Also

  • Social Integration
  • Social Exclusion
  • Community integration
  • Social integration
  • Racial integration
  • Social Engagement
  • Public Participation
  • Social participation

Hierarchical Display of Middle class

Social Questions > Social framework > Social structure > Social class

Middle class

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Social Questions > Social framework > Social structure > Social class > Middle class

See also

  • Cramming
  • Bourgeoisie