Distributive Justice and a Rising Middle Class: Conflict between MAPAI and White-collar Professionals before the 1955 General Elections in Israel


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The issue examined in this article is the relative status of professionals in the Israeli job market of the 1950s and their developing conflict with the ruling social democratic party MAPAI as a conflict within the absorbing group-professionals on the one side and the heads of MAPAI on the other. This conflict undermines the binary division into absorbers and absorbed in the macro-social-political and macro-economic analyses of Israel's first decade, and most particularly the mid-1950s. MAPAI, in the government and the Histadrut, adopted a policy that closely supervised the material advantages that mass immigration presented to the Ashkenazi absorbers. The conflict between professionals and the government and Histadrut in the mid-1950s revealed cracks in the political-economic relationship between the ruling MAPAI and the middle classes. MAPAI opposed demands by professionals to differentiate themselves from other workers, curbing their growing tendency to create a class distinction between themselves and others. Within the prevailing socio-economic power structure of Israel of the mid-1950s, the government and Histadrut were the powers that worked towards mitigating the effect of the socioeconomic inequality between the two halves of the new Israeli society-the absorbers and the immigrants. This article examines professionals, who were an important factor in the rising middle classes during the first years of Israeli statehood. They set themselves on a collision course with MAPAI whose control of government and the Histadrut, at least in the realm of wages, was an obstacle to the middle class's attempt to acquire the dominant status they thought they deserved within Israeli society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-276
Number of pages22
JournalIsrael Affairs
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2008


  • Area Studies ; ha-Histadrut ha-kelalit shel ha-ʻovdim be-Erets-Yiśraʼel ; Israel -- History ; Israel -- Politics and government ; Mifleget poʻale Erets Yiśraʼel (Political party) ; Political parties -- Israel ; Social Sciences


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