The Making of the Urban Middle Class in South Korea (1961-1986) and China (1980-2008): Nationalism, Modernity, and New Identities

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The Making of the Urban Middle Class in South Korea (1961-1986) and China (1980-2008): Nationalism, Modernity, and New Identities
Yang, Myungji (creator)
Heller, Patrick (Director)
Logan, John (Reader)
Cammett, Melani (Reader)
Mahoney, James (Reader)
Henry, Paget (Reader)
Brown University. Sociology (sponsor)
Copyright Date
This dissertation demonstrates that discourses about the middle class and the practices of the middle class fostered fast-growing, orderly market economies in South Korea and China while simultaneously pacifying potential social conflict. While many studies of development focus narrowly on state economic policies, my research draws attention to the social and cultural conditions that effectively promote and legitimize state-directed development projects that often come with significant costs to the population. I argue that, despite their differing socioeconomic systems, state-sponsored middle class formation in Korea and China served to strengthen state visions of national development and modernization. By tracing the processes of middle-class formation, my dissertation focuses on state ideological projects that successfully created an image of “developmental subjects.” This image worked to control and discipline the very population that was to drive economic growth and whose highly visible class markers would provide the rest of the population a goal toward which to strive.<br/> Drawing evidence from archival data and in-depth interviews, I come to three conclusions. First, each state produced unique meanings, symbols, and values that were channeled through the middle class and aligned with state projects of development. Second, in addition to official discourses about the middle class, states provided the material conditions under which white-collar workers and public employees could achieve upward mobility through housing and income policies. Third, once the middle class was produced and began to grow through state sponsorship, it worked to reproduce its privileged position through everyday class practices. Through exclusionary gate-keeping practices in everyday life, the middle class sought to advance their interests against the lower classes in the name of citizenship, which worked to maintain the existing social order. By analyzing both the cultural and political-economic dynamics of a social group in the making, this dissertation bridges a gap in the theories about developmental states, class formation, and economic transition in East Asia. <br/> <br/>
authoritarian state
Middle class
Economic development
Thesis (Ph.D. -- Brown University (2012)
xiv, 247 p.


Yang, Myungji, "The Making of the Urban Middle Class in South Korea (1961-1986) and China (1980-2008): Nationalism, Modernity, and New Identities" (2012). Sociology Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.