RISE OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

24 September 2013

 

The welfare-state is in decline and the free market economy is ruthless to societies in times of crisis.

Those protests had their counterparts in V4 countries. Here posters have called for free, equal, and universal access to global information in Warsaw, for moral standards in politics in Slovakia and in Prague, or for the welfare state in Budapest, outmoded in a time of austerity. They mirrored middle-class protests worldwide. This class, however defined, always refers to social status and lifestyle. Therefore, average income, educational aspirations, sensitive morality, and stability are its distinctive features. But what else do we know about them? Who is behind the mask of middle class in Central Europe?

Normality has been a twin brother of the middle class during the democratic transformation in Central Europe. It was a common belief that capitalism, democracy, and the spontaneous social order of ordinary people are essential to peace and prosperity, which everyone considered to be a normal state. We have inherited this belief and we have chased it like a dream in the region. Alas, the dream has been fulfilled by emerging markets, the rule of law, and social standards that have leveled since 1989, at the same time the source of the fundamental conviction has been fading away.

Sociologists and public intellectuals have recently presented sets of alarming data about rising inequalities in democracies and fear that disparity will change democracies for the worse. Notably, this refers only to the North, the rich part of the world. Wherever else, be it Brazil or China, but also from Warsaw to Budapest, there is a rise of the middle class, just not quite that similar to the image of western countries.

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