Social Contracts Under Stress: The Middle Classes of America, Europ, and Japan at the Turn of the Century

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The years following World War II saw a huge expansion of the middle classes in the world's industrialized nations, with a significant part of the working class becoming absorbed into the middle class. Although never explicitly formalized, it was as though a new social contract called for government, business, and labor to work together to ensure greater political freedom and more broadly shared economic prosperity. For the most part, they succeeded. In Social Contracts Under Stress, eighteen experts from seven countries examine this historic transformation and look ahead to assess how the middle class might fare in the face of slowing economic growth and increasing globalization.

The first section of the book focuses on the differing experiences of Germany, Britain, France, the United States, and Japan as they became middle-class societies. The British working classes, for example, were slowest to consider themselves middle class, while in Japan by the 1960s, most workers had abandoned working-class identity. The French remain more fragmented among various middle classes and resist one homogenous entity. Part II presents compelling evidence that the rise of a huge middle class was far from inclusive or free of social friction. Some contributors discuss how the social contract reinforced long-standing prejudices toward minorities and women. In the United States, Ira Katznelson writes, Southern politicians used measures that should have promoted equality, such as the GI bill, to exclude blacks from full access to opportunity. In her review of gender and family models, Chiara Saraceno finds that Mediterranean countries have mobilized the power of the state to maintain a division of labor between men and women. The final section examines what effect globalization might have on the middle class. Leonard Schoppa's careful analysis of the relevant data shows how globalization has pushed "less skilled workers down and more skilled workers up out of a middle class that had for a few decades been home to both." Although Europe has resisted the rise of inequality more effectively than the United States or Japan, several contributors wonder how long that resistance can last.

Social Contracts Under Stress argues convincingly that keeping the middle class open and inclusive in the face of current economic pressures will require a collective will extending across countries. This book provides an invaluable guide for assessing the issues that must be considered in such an effort.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871549983
  • Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
  • Publication date: 4/1/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 443
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 8.96 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

OLIVIER ZUNZ is Commonwealth Professor of History, University of Virginia.

LEONARD SCHOPPA is associate professor in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Government and Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia.

NOBUHIRO HIWATARI is professor of political science at the University of Tokyo.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Social Contracts Under Stress
Olivier Zunz 1

1 From Divergence to Convergence: The Divided German
Middle Class, 1945 to 2000 Hannes Siegrist 21
2 Individuality and Class: The Rise and Fall of the
Gentlemanly Social Contract in Britain Mike Savage 47
3 The Middle Classes in France: Social and Political
Functions of Semantic Pluralism from 1870 to 2000
Christophe Charle 66
4 Could Postwar France Become a Middle-class Society?
Patrick Fridenson 89
5 The Short Happy Life of the Japanese Middle Class
Andrew Gordon 108
6 Inflation: "The Permanent Dilemma" of the American
Middle Classes Meg Jacobs 130

7 Public Policy and the Middle-class Racial Divide After the Second World War Ira Katznelson 157

8 The American Middle Class and the Politics of Education Margaret Weir 178
9 Changing Gender and Family Models: Their Impact on the Social Contract in European Welfare States
Chiara Saraceno 204
10 At the Limits of New Middle-class Japan: Beyond
"Mainstream Consciousness" William W. Kelly 232
11 Twelve Million Full-time Housewives: The Gender
Consequences of Japan's Postwar Social Contract
Mari Osawa 255

12 Disinflationary Adjustment: The Link Between
Economic Globalization and Challenges to Postwar
Social Contracts Nobuhiro Hiwatari 281
13 Globalization and the Squeeze on the Middle Class:
Does Any Version of the Postwar Social Contract Meet the Challenge? Leonard Schoppa 319
14 Europeanization of Social Policy: A Reopening of the
Social Contract? Bo Ohngren 345
15 Europe from Division to Reunification: The Eastern
European Middle Classes During and After Socialism
Maurice Aymard 362
16 Upsetting Models: An Italian Tale of the Middle Classes
Arnaldo Bagnasco 379

Statistical Appendix: Income Inequality in Seven
Nations-France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, the
United Kingdom, and the United States Derek Hoff 401
Selected Bibliography 411
Index 421

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