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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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Conclusion: Prospects for the Middle-Class Society in Poland


Whenever a government seeks to rely on a previously observed statistical regularity for control purposes, that regularity will collapse.

Charles Goodhart (economist and statistician)

A dozen years ago, the development of the middle class would daily make headlines of newspapers in Poland. With the middle class becoming a highly charged political issue, the government would be called to account on policies for its progress. As for grassroots initiatives, the renewal of the middle class was promoted by a citizen group associated with the now non-existent weekly Cash. The group’s spontaneous activity reached its apogee in 1995 with the foundation of the Polish Middle Class Registration Committee (Komisja Rejestracyjna Polska Klasa Średnia), which issued membership certificates to candidates who met the following criteria: had at least secondary education, owned a car and earned at least PLN 1,500 monthly (a relatively small sum at the time). The enthusiastic activists magically believed that creation of social structures was a viable project and saw it as a crucial development in progress. Although the novice enthusiasm has waned and other problems are talk of the day now, the middle class is not doomed to sink into obscurity of archival scrolls. In May 2001, the election banners of the Freedom Union (Unia Wolności) read “A strong middle class means strong Poland.” That veritably pioneering ferment brought “the middle class” to the centre of the political stage, symbolically at least, and kindled hopes for the middle class to evolve...

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