New Malay Middle-Class Lifestyles and Culture
This chapter examines several interrelated issues pertaining to the new Malay middle-class lifestyles and culture, such as living conditions, asset ownership, consumption patterns, and leisure activities. At the same time, it also discusses an important issue in class analysis – that is, the self-evaluation by members of the new Malay middle class of their own class positions – to see if their subjective evaluations match our objective definition of the new middle-class. This chapter aims to show that the new Malay middle class lifestyles and cultural preferences are not homogenous; and that while the more affluent sections of the new Malay middle class have developed distinct high-status lifestyles and cultural preferences, many still have lifestyles and cultural preferences that do not differentiate them as a social category distinct from the lower classes.
Ownership of various assets such as houses, cars and expensive household gadgets, and various types of financial assets are important indicators of one's wealth and living standards and also one's lifestyle and social standing. It is expected that being relatively more affluent, the new middle class has greater access to better-quality housing and other assets than the working class.
Housing is a basic necessity for human beings since it provides them with ontological security – that is, security of living and existence. While a few may own houses through inheritance, the overwhelming majority have to acquire them through their own efforts. Being scarce and costly, especially in the Malaysian urban areas today, house ownership is