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The Polish Middle Class

Series:

Henryk Domański

This book discusses the viability of «importing» the middle class to Poland. The 1990s were a step forward in the formation of the Polish middle class and, systematically yet barely discernible in daily life, the process was triggered by an increase in consumption and affluence. However, the changes of attitudes, life goals and value systems distinct for the Western middle class are ambiguous and rather slow in Poland. They ensue mainly from the changes in new social structures and the behavioral rationality of consumers. It appears that the middle class in Poland will not emerge as an exact copy of the original middle class – rather, it will be its contextually modified variant, affected by Polish cultural traditions.
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Chapter V: The Old Intelligentsia vs. the New Middle Class

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Intellectuals suffer from their inability to alter the course of events. But they underestimate their influence. In a long term sense, politicians are the disciples of scholars and writers.

Raymond Aron,The Opium of the Intellectuals

The class formation processes are structurally underpinned by occupational roles, relations of ownership and the labour market. Over the last hundred years, the development of the middle classes was fuelled by non-manual categories, in particular by highly qualified specialists, in the Anglo-American world referred to as the professions and – after C.W. Mills’s White Collar was published in 1951 – as the new middle class, which gives it a more sociological ring.

Within the Polish social structure, their closest equivalent – and, probably, the hub of the new middle class – is the intelligentsia. The category owes its highest status and distinctive position to university education and its outcome – systematic, comprehensive knowledge. This is what makes, for example, surgeons surpass butchers, though, admittedly, a good butcher may be a meat-carving authority. This also lifts engine designers above car mechanics. Scrutinising various transformations within the intelligentsia, I will seek to answer some questions concerning the formation of a middle-class society in Poland which were left unexamined in the previous chapters. In doing that, I will focus on how the capitalist logic and the traditional ethos of the intelligentsia clashed in the 1990s and generated some new developments.

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