History and evolution of the term Middle class

Middle Class Family from early modern era

The middle class is the social class of people in the middle of a financial hierarchy. Its practice has often been uncertain whether defined in terms of income, occupation, social status, and education. The interpretation by any writer is often taken for political connotations. Writers from the left-wing ecosystem promote the lower-status term working class. However, modern social theorists—and particularly economists—have re-defined the term “middle class” to serve their particular political or social ends.

Within capitalism, the middle-class originally referred to the bourgeoisie; as distinct from the royalty, then with the additional differentiation of classes as capitalist societies evolved to the degree where the ‘capitalist’ became the new ruling class, the term came to be synonymous with the petite bourgeoisie.

The standard measures of what constitutes the middle class vary among cultures. On the one hand, you can view the term virtually in terms of socioeconomic status. One of the finest definitions limits it to those in the middle fifth of the country’s income ladder. A broader characterization includes everyone but the wealthiest 20% and the poorest 20%.

History and evolution of the term, Middle class

The phrase “middle class” is first covered in James Bradshaw’s 1745 pamphlet Scheme to stop running Irish Wools to France. Another term used in modern Europe was “the middling sort.”

The word “middle class” has had numerous, sometimes conflicting, meanings. Friedrich Engels saw the division as an intermediary social class between the peasantry and the nobility in late-feudalist society.

While the royalty owned much of the country, and the peasantry were employed on it, a new bourgeoisie (literally “town-dwellers”) appeared around mercantile functions in the town. In France, the middle classes supported the French Revolution. They were the driving force of that historic event. This “middle class” ultimately toppled the ruling monarchists of feudal society, thus becoming bourgeoisie or the new ruling class in the contemporary capitalist-dominated societies.

However, the contemporary usage of the term “middle-class” records to the 1913 UK Registrar-General’s report. The statistician T.H.C. Stevenson recognized the middle class as those falling between the working-class and the upper-class The middle class includes managers, professionals, and civil servants. The chief defining feature of membership in the middle-class is control of broad human capital while still being under the upper class’s dominion, which controls much of the world’s legal and financial capital.

Within capitalism, “middle-class” was originally connected to the bourgeoisie; later, with the additional differentiation of classes as capitalist nations developed, the term came to be known as the petite bourgeoisie. The boom-and-bust periods of capitalist economies result in the intermittent (and more or less temporary) proletarianization and improvisation of much of the petite bourgeois world, ending in their moving back and forth between petite-bourgeois and working-class status. The common modern definitions of “middle class” tend to overlook the fact that the traditional petite-bourgeoisie is and has always been the sole owner of a small-to-medium-sized business whose income is procured almost solely from the employment of workers; “middle class” came to refer to the combination of the labor aristocracy, and salaried, white-collar workers.

The middle-class size depends on how it is defined, whether by wealth, education, social network, the environment of upbringing, values or manners, etc. These are all indeed related but are far from dependent. The following factors are often covered in the literature on this topic to a “middle class:”

  • Holding professional qualifications, including lawyers, professors, chartered engineers, doctors, and politicians, regardless of wealth or leisure.
  • Achievement of tertiary education.
  • Belief in bourgeois values, such as high house ownership rates, delayed gratification, and jobs that are recognized to be secure.
  • Lifestyle. In Great Britain, social status has been linked less directly to wealth than in the United States and has also been assessed by such features as an accent (Received Pronunciation and U and non-U English), manners, kinds of the school attended (private or state school), the class of a person’s family, and occupation, the circle of acquaintances and friends.

In the early modern United States, by the dawn of the twentieth century, more people recognized themselves as middle-class than as “working” or lower class (with small numbers identifying themselves as upper-class).

Estimates vary extensively on the number of middle-class families in India. According to The Economist, 80 million of India’s population are estimated to be in the middle-class category as of 2017, if determined using the cutoff of those making more than $10 per day, a standard used by India’s National Council of Applied Economic Research. Measures considered also include lifestyle, geography, and education apart from income. 

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