Accepted paper:

Financialization and the middle class

Author:

Hadas Weiss (Madrid Institute for Advanced Study)

Paper short abstract:

Financialization, with its erosion of contractually-secured incomes, lays bare the ideological foundations of the middle class as eliciting investments that are excessive in terms of consumption.

Paper long abstract:

The middleness of the middle class denotes mobility in a social terrain marked by inequality, whereby both upward and downward mobility are associated with one's choices and strategies. Individuals who can afford to expend work, time and money beyond what they need to fulfil their consumption needs, are made to consider their unremunerated expenditures not as structurally imposed drains that impoverish them, but as voluntary investments that hold forth the promise of proportional future rewards in terms of security, status, or prosperity. With their investments people buy resources such as educational and cultural credentials, homes, savings, insurance policies, pension accounts, and tenured work contracts, which provide them with secured incomes. These resources must always be attained anew while the incomes they wield are provisional. This has never been more apparent than now, in the era of financialization, and its erosion of contractual incomes and the resources that wield them. Financialization thereby lays bare the ideological function of the middle class as enlisting households as active agents in an accumulation process that undermines their own goals and aspirations.

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The future of class