The Irritated Middle? Conduct of Life and Coping Practices in the Middle Classes

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 08:30-10:20
RC16 Sociological Theory (host committee)

Language: English

Last but not least with the populist surge in the last decade, the situation of the middle classes in North American and Western European Societies has become a much discussed topic. For a fine-grained understanding of the underlying processes, the session addresses middle class life through a “conduct of life” (“Lebensführung”) perspective inspired by Weber. This directs attention towards the mode of doing life as a complex phenomenon encompassing the habitualized practices of everyday life and reflexive sense-making and strategizing. This is a fruitful way to understand the reactions of different parts of the middle classes towards the diverse disturbances that they have been subjected to in the last years. From such a perspective it should become apparent that the populist “acting out” is only one form of reacting to disturbances – others include strategies of enhanced effort, which might result in status stabilization or in exhaustion, strategies of seclusion through retreating in socio-cultural niches, or other forms of voice/loyalty/exit.

We welcome contributions that empirically and theoretically address the ways in which members of the middle classes cope with disturbances against the background of their conduct of life, addressing, for example, the following questions:

- What strategies of coping can be identified in different factions of the middle classes or across different social classes?

- How do disturbances and how does coping with disturbances vary across different societies?

- How do comparable approaches such as Bourdieu’s habitus/life trajectory or Archer’s social mobility and reflexivity address the phenomenon?

Session Organizers:
Uwe SCHIMANK, University of Bremen, Germany and Hans-Peter MUELLER, Humboldt University, Germany
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