What is "Middle Class"? In Search for an Appropriate Concept

Dieter Neubert

Abstract


In the current debate the middle class of the Global South is identified as a new group of consumers and it is seen as the carrier of democratic values and societal progress. But we know that protagonists of a liberal democratic opposition as well as followers of radical religious groups and supporters of the conservative authoritarian regimes are all part of the middle class. Obviously the middle class is not homogenous. Is the concept of middle class useful under these conditions? Are concepts of socio-cultural differentiation such as milieus or lifestyles applicable in the Global South even when cross-cutting elements like religion and ethnic identity play a much more important role than in Europe?


Keywords


Middle Class; Social Structure; Milieu; Lifestyle; Socio-Cultural Differentiation

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17192/meta.2014.2.1330

is professor of development sociology at University of Bayreuth. His research areas include sociology of Africa (including social structure), sociology of violent conflicts, social change, and development policy. His regional research focus is Africa, particularly East Africa. He has also conducted research in Southeast Asia (Vietnam and Thailand). email: dieter.neubert@uni-bayreuth.de