Identity and Behaviour
Edited by Minglu Chen and David S.G. Goodman
Chapter 6: Homeowners’ movements: narratives on the political behaviours of the middle class
Identity and Behaviour
The ‘middle classes’ have become a hot topic in Chinese society. Researchers, officials and journalists have largely adopted the idea that China needs a strong middle class to pursue modernization. Admittedly, points of view are diverse concerning the definition of this group of people – in terms of level of income and education, type of job, lifestyle and relationship with the state, but everybody agrees on the tasks it has to assume: to stimulate domestic consumer demand, to raise the quality of the population, to introduce modern lifestyles and to contribute to political change (Li, 2006; Goodman, 2008a; Rocca, 2008, 2009). The middle class is supposed to be the only force that can contribute efficiently to democratization. It is an idealistic class, conscious of its rights and ready to defend them but, at the same time, clearly opposed to any political clash. As it relies exclusively upon rational solutions to solve social and political conflicts, the middle class could play a vanguard role without jeopardizing social stability (Tsinghua daxue …, 2010). This understanding is supported explicitly and implicitly by modernization theory (Lipset, 1959, 1960; Rostow, 1960; Moore, 1966; Inkeles and Smith, 1975; Inglehart, 1997; Huntington, 2006), which considers that industrialization improves the likelihood of democratic transition by increasing the levels of education, by stimulating urbanization and occupational specialization. These phenomena contribute to the emergence of relevant political actors and create social pressure for democratization. Roughly speaking, during the stage leading up to modernity, economic growth is supposed to give birth to a new social class
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