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The Polish Middle Class


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 VI: The Upper Class


What I want to know is; what is actually wrong with an elite, for God’s sake?

Charles, Prince of Wales

Looking for the middle class, we should not lose track of a related category, that is, the upper class, which is an immanent part of the hierarchical division into the upper, middle and lower class. In Anglo-American culture, the division has become the basic framework for organising the social hierarchy. In Western countries, the terms “upper,” “middle” and “lower” have been commonly used in colloquial language for a few hundred years now, and the social sciences made them part of coherent theories corroborated by empirical research.

The distinction into “upper,” “middle” and “lower” classes was systematically investigated by William Lloyd Warner, a prominent socio-anthropologist who initiated comprehensive research on American local communities. Starting their empirical project in the 1930s, W.L. Warner and his team produced a series of monograph studies, deemed (at that time) milestones of empirical sociology. The eponymous Yankee City and Jonesville, which appeared in the best know of these publications, are aliases of small towns in New England and the Mid-West, where the surveys were conducted, probing into practically all aspects of life, with a focus on paid labour, material living conditions, social relationships and everyday routines of the inhabitants.

Warner’s team aimed mainly to capture more general principles and the social hierarchy of communal life (Warner 1949, Warner and Lunt 1941). On the basis of findings...

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