Investing in Status As a Mode of Living? the Conduct of Life of the German Middle Class

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Nils C. KUMKAR, University of Leipzig, Germany
The last decade saw vivid debates about disturbances of the middle-class life across diverse live-spheres, such as the labour market, parenthood and civil society engagement. Those debates have led to diverging conclusions and mostly lack a comprehensive, empirically grounded understanding of the habitualized everyday practices of the middle classes that are called into question by those social developments.

In our research project, we focus on the reconstruction of the variety of conducts of life in the German middle class and the identification of circumstances under which routinized patterns of “doing life” are irritated. We assume that the specific mode of doing life of the middle class in Germany has been – and largely still is – characterized by a continuous investment of economic and cultural capital to pursue the reproduction and, if possible, improvement of one’s social status. Empirically, we rely on narrative biographical interviews with members of the German middle-class.

My presentation will focus on the reconstruction of diverging habitualized status-orientations of middle class members, as they influence the perception and thus the subsequent processing of irritations. We find a broad range of status-orientations across the varying factions of the middle class – from seemingly boundless striving for social and monetary recognition, to rather modest status-orientations based on local anchoring and dense social networks. The contribution will provide empirical illustration of those orientations and suggest factors that systematically produce them, such as family backgrounds, social networks and the availability of economic resources, or traditions of professional pride.