The Middle Classes in Non-Western Societies: Inner Dynamics and Self-Assertion Perspective

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2015-2-95-105

A. Volodin, Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation (

Abstract. The present article focuses on the entity of middle classes in non-Western societies. The social formation of this kind is a relatively new phenomenon. As far as the modern Western societies are concerned, the social and political “materialization” of the above-mentioned entity has covered the period of no less than five centuries. The middle class in modern transitional societies began to emerge quite recently, with a few notable exceptions, after gaining sovereignty. That is one of the reasons why political systems in the non-Western world are mostly fragile and susceptible to instability of different kinds and origins. The so called “Arab awakening” gives a vivid example for the “underdevelopment” of indigenous middle classes. Whilst in the advanced industrial societies middle classes were (and are) the building blocks of social structure, economic and political development, elite recruitment, etc., among the non-Western societies (with the salient exception of the North-East Asia) the process of the middle class institutionalization as well as its economic and political self-assertion is still under way, somewhere at the initial stage of development. Comparing various non-Western societies from the middle class inner dynamics as well as self-assertion perspective, the author concludes that in the ultimate analysis, the maturity of this process is dependent on the pro-active and creative role of the State. The latter serves as the main driving force of the middle class consolidation and the instrument of political and economic systems for increasing and advancing development. The cases of India, on one hand, and Indonesia, on the other, demonstrate convincingly that the State remains the leading institution of the society able to accelerate economic growth and development, but also to stimulate the emergence and socio-political assertion of the middle class in contemporary non-Western world.  

Keywords: non-Western societies, middle class, social structure, “dualistic” economic growth/development, “non-orthodox capitalism”, North-East Asia, India, Indonesia, super large entities/countries

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For citation:
Volodin A. The Middle Classes in Non-Western Societies: Inner Dynamics and Self-Assertion Perspective . World Eonomy and International Relations, 2015, no. 2, pp. 95-105.

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