“Die beharrliche Mitte” (“The persistent middle”) reconstructs images of the “good life” and practices of status work in the German middle classes

Despite the widespread concerns about a “crisis of the middle classes”, we know surprisingly little about what actually is in crisis: What is the normalcy supposedly irritated by this crisis? Nils Kumkar, Stefan Holubek, Karin Gottschall, Betina Hollstein, and Uwe Schimank have taken up this question. They conducted biographic-narrative interviews with members of the middle classes and compared them with biographic accounts of members of the upper middle- and lower classes. They show the conduct of life of the middle classes to be shaped by three distinct, implicit ideals of the good life: an orientation towards community, professional pride, and economic status improvement. Even though all of the interviewees indeed do and had to engage in practices of status-work throughout their life, their experience of challenges and chances nevertheless differs significantly, depending on which of these ideals they deem “worth living for” – an insight that might prove central for understanding how the middle classes react upon the different crises society is facing today.

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Dr. Nils C. Kumkar
SOCIUM Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 9
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58620
E-Mail: kumkar@uni-bremen.de