The question of the middle classes
The question of the middle classes is crucial for appreciating more general structural changes going on in modern-day societies.
Following a lecture on the topic given by Arnaldo Bagnasco in 2004 at the CSS Assembly, an international bibliographical survey on the topic got under way, later made available in the document "La questione del ceto medio: un percorso bibliografico", edited by Giovanni Semi.
At the moment the CSS is helping a group of researchers of the Universities of Turin, Milano Statale, Bologna, Valle d'Aosta and the Polytechnic of Milan with a long-term research programme on the middle classes in Italy. Arnaldo Bagnasco, scientific coordinator of the project, has done the groundwork for a document entitled "Classi medie. Perché e come occuparsene: introduzione a un programma di ricerca, ("Why and how to deal with the Middle classes: introduction to a research programme", mimeo, 2005, 144 pp.). The text, revised and enhanced with further contributions from the entire research Group, will be coming out on 10 November, in the book published by Il Mulino, "Ceto medio. Perché e come occuparsene". The general approach, preparation and development of single chapters were discussed in subsequent meetings, bringing uniformity to the various contributions.
Thanks to funding from Compagnia di San Paolo, some of the planned researches are nearing conclusion, some are ongoing and others are still on the drawing board.
A total of 12 researchers and 18 scholarship holders are currently working on the project.
Ongoing researches and projects:
The emergence of a public debate on the question of the middle classes. Individual and collective interests in the midst of social stratification.
Scientific coordination (University of Turin): Nicoletta Bosco, Antonella Meo, Rocco Sciarrone.
This study examines forms of the public debate, and seeks to highlight the political and cultural construction of the middle classes. The analysis will study the archives of three national newspapers from the 1990s to today, and analyse materials collected using conceptual tools taken from modern-day literature on social stratification. One of the main goals indeed is to explore how the question of the middle classes is used in terms of a category or frame, in order to recognise and describe ongoing changes in Italian society, and to see whether changes are caused by significant and clearly identifiable social actors: e.g. political classes, opinion makers, intellectuals, entrepreneurs, etc.
Trajectories of the middle classes.
Scientific coordination: Nicola Negri (University of Turin), Filippo Barbera (University of Turin), Massimo Zanetti (University of Valle D'Aosta).
The aim of the research is to study the transitions to adult life, in other words the set of events marking a young person's entry into the adult world. The reproductive model typical of 20th century industrial societies, which became established thanks mainly to the role played by the middle classes, appears to have declined in importance, in favour of a more varied and complex set of possible transitions. This change may highlight the crisis of mechanisms on which the reproduction of the middle classes is based, in terms of social control, consumption and lifestyles, consensus and representation.
Self-employment: a research on the political economy of the new independent middle classes.
Scientific coordination: Costanzo Ranci (Milan Polytechnic, Social Policies Laboratory)
This analysis focuses on a particular element of the middle classes: self-employed workers, investigating their expansion in the current economic system and their particular exposure to risks, in view of the greater instability of self-employment from many points of view. The analysis continues with a study of the political economy, with reference to welfare state systems, tax laws and commercial law, and considering the position and status of self-employed workers in the community.
The middle classes and consumption: boundaries, standards and rhetoric.
Scientific coordination: Marco Santoro (University of Bologna), Roberta Sassatelli (University of Milan), Giovanni Semi (University of Milan).
The project sets out to reconstruct consumption models for the middle classes in Italy. Analytical aspects relating to modern-day consumption are studied, along with practical and political aspects, such as the alternative and the problem of separating private consumption from consumption referring to public services. The analysis goes down three avenues: education and cultural consumption, choosing and investing in a home, food, introduced by descriptive analyses and studied in greater depth using ethnographic research techniques and interviews conducted directly by researchers in different parts of the country.
Further projects are on the drawing board, in particular a study on medium-sized towns in Italy and on the role of the middle classes in these towns; a study on immigrant middle classes being formed and on the effects of stratification produced by the impact of these immigrants on the native middle classes.
SASE (Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics) presents States in Crisis University of Milan SASE's 25th Annual Meeting June 27-29, 2013...
In the US the plan to rescue the middle classes is one of Obama's pledges. What about in Italy? It is difficult to mark out boundaries and identify the reasons for the malaise of the middle...
24 June 2004 - Accademia dei Lincei, Rome The question of the middle classes has received quite a bit of press coverage in recent months. It is an issue that has actually been simmering for...
Introduzione Un recente dibattito pubblico in Italia sollecita la ripresa della ricerca sul ceto medio. Lanciato nell'arena pubblica da diverse inchieste giornalistiche comparse sulle pagine...
Ceto medio. Perchè e come occuparsene (The middle classes. Why and how to deal with them)