Declining Middle Classes: Challenging Classical Theories of Social Distinction through Consumption

Monday, 11 July 2016: 10:45-12:15
Location: Hörsaal 30 (Main Building)
RC20 Comparative Sociology (host committee)

Language: English

During more than a century theorists on status distinction have competed with one another in order to best explain and understand how the emergence of a western consumer culture is part of a reorganizing of social stratification and social distinction.
But if the 20th century was characterized by the rise of the Western middle class and the theories on social distinction rested upon that basic assumption, the beginning of the 21st century has been characterized by the need for a monumentally antithetic assumption; namely the actual decline of the middle class, the emergence of a global “precariat”, a liquid society and on the empirical level a “new” experience of status descendance in a “nouveaux pauvres” consumer culture. Hence, given that the grand narrative of a rising west has been challenged and, for some, even torn apart, how is social distinction through consumption changing in the declining middle class today? 
For this session we call for papers bringing up new perspectives on social distinction through consumption when the formerly safe position of the privileged middle class is derogating. How is consumption used when individual and collective status positions are increasingly unstable? And how are consumer meanings of e.g. ostentation and humility changing in this context? We will prioritize papers using a comparative perspective (for example between cultural sites or sociocultural groups), or case studies between which can be made comparisons.
Session Organizer:
Sofia ULVER, University of Lund, Sweden
Upper Middle Class Reproduction in Santiago: How to Reproduce Privilege in a Context of Increasing Wealth.
Maria-Luisa MENDEZ, Universidad Diego Portales, Chile; Modesto GAYO, Universidad Diego Portales, Chile
The Socialist “Middle Class” Revisited: Consumption-Based Class Distinctions in Four Post-Yugoslav Countries
Mirko PETRIC, Department of Sociology, University of Zadar, Croatia; Inga TOMIC KOLUDROVIC, Institute of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar, Croatia; Predrag CVETICANIN, Faculty of Sports and Tourism, TIMS, Novi Sad, Serbia