Academic journal article World Review of Political Economy

On the So-Called "Middle-Class Citizens" as the Power of Social Change

Academic journal article World Review of Political Economy

On the So-Called "Middle-Class Citizens" as the Power of Social Change

Article excerpt

Abstract: This article, looking at the middle-class citizens of today who have grown into the majority of the population in developed countries and who are gradually becoming the majority in emerging countries too, argues that none other than such citizens might retain the power of social change in th is phase of capitalism. Th is article, by tracing the d ifferent aspects of citizens' features along with capitalist development, reveals the complicated characteristics of contemporary middle-class citizens who though usually supporting of the capitalist system, sometimes turn into influential opponents of the system where they feel themselves betrayed or abandoned by it. This article insists on the distinct meaning of the Worldwide Comprehensive Consumption Reduction Movement, which is effective not only for preventing the destruction of nature, culture and human health but also for the middle-class citizens to develop into constructive reformists, not simply opponents, of the very same capitalist society.

Key words: middle-class citizens; social change; consumption reduction strategy; world-wide movement; ordinary citizens' human development

Introduction: The Peculiar Meaning of the Middle-Class Citizens

In the 19th century, as many theorists after Karl Marx have been arguing, those who can change the social system and create a new system have been considered to be working class, selling their own labor power in exchange for exceedingly low wages with very long working hours and remarkably poor labor conditions. Accordingly, the class struggles between capitalists and workers have been believed to be decisively important in the process of social change.

Since the early days of capitalism, after already one and a half centuries, however, there seems to have appeared a new type of citizen. They are, in fact, still working and yet selling their own labor in exchange for a salary with very long stressful working hours. But those citizens, with a relatively high standard of education and generally living in or near the big cities, consume far more than the workers of the 19th century so long as the business cycle is operating fairly well.

Also, they support capitalism by mass-purchase of mountains of commodities and services produced by the capitalist system, and what is more the large part of them often play a politically important role as voters for the government party and actually support the capitalist system, too.1 Besides, the population of such citizens is not only the overwhelming majority in the developed countries, but also is now rapidly growing especially in the successful developing countries. Moreover, what is far more curious is that the citizens themselves sometimes resist their governments when they feel they are betrayed by their social system for any other reason. Accordingly, they can sometimes be threatening to the ruling power because such citizens' form such a large part of the population as well as having considerable influence. On the other hand, the traditional working class needs such citizens' cooperation if the class desires the social change.

So, we cannot ignore those citizens when we discuss social change. Any type of social change will go just with those citizens' recognition of and participation in the social revolutionary process. Therefore the investigation into those people should be set up now to be a core study in the social sciences.

First and Second Generation Citizens

The citizens in the early days of modern Europe (bourgeois) and the middle-class citizens today should be considered as quite different, even though people refer to them in the same way as "citizens."

The most fundamental feature of modern European society and which expanded to the whole world is considered to be individualism, not freedom, equality, democracy or anything else. Either freedom or democracy was derived simply from individualism itself as products of its fundamental features. …

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