Industrialization and Middle-Class Formation in Malaysia
This chapter offers a macro-analysis of the evolution of class structure, with particular reference to middle-class formation, in Malaysia from the early twentieth century to the present day. The discussion is conducted against the backdrop of the structural changes that have occurred in the country during the pre- and post-independence periods, with emphasis on the post-1970s' changes and transformation. The chapter traces the evolution of the class structure, and shows the role of the state as well as capitalist production relations in promoting structural changes and the formation of modern classes, including the new middle class. The macro-analysis in this chapter provides the background to subsequent chapters which contain the micro-analysis based on field studies conducted among the new Malay middle class in the metropolitan city of Kuala Lumpur (and Petaling Jaya) (also referred to as the Klang Valley), and two provincial towns in the east coast states of peninsular Malaysia – Kota Bharu in Kelantan and Kuala Terengganu in Terengganu.
However, as discussed in Chapter 1, although the new middle class is not easy to define, many scholars, of various theoretical inclinations, have utilized occupational categories for their working definition of class. In this chapter, I also adopt the occupational approach to identify the new middle class, by using data on occupations tabulated in official statistics available since the early decades of the twentieth century. These statistics, however, only refer to occupational categories. They give statistics of different types of occupations, both white-collar and blue-collar. However, the occupational definition used here is only for the purpose of making estimates of the relative sizes of various occupational groups in the workforce, and should only be taken as a proxy of class. In this