Rewealthization in twenty-first century Western countries: the defining trend of the socioeconomic squeeze of the middle class

Louis Chauvel, Eyal Bar Haim, Anne Hartung, Emily Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

The wealth-to-income ratio (WIR) in many Western countries, particularly in Europe and North America, increased by a factor of two in the last three decades. This represents a defining empirical trend: a rewealthization (from the French repatrimonialisation)—or the comeback of (inherited) wealth primacy since the mid-1990s. For the sociology of social stratification, “occupational classes” based on jobs worked must now be understood within a context of wealth-based domination. This paper first illustrates important empirical features of an era of rising WIR. We then outline the theory of rewealthization as a major factor of class transformations in relation to regimes stabilized in the post-WWII industrial area. Compared to the period where wealth became secondary to education and earnings for middle-class lifestyles, rewealthization steepens society's vertical structure; the "olive-shaped" Western society is replaced by a new one where wealth "abundance" at the top masks social reproduction and frustrations below.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
JournalJournal of Chinese Sociology
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Inequality
  • Middle-class society
  • Repatrimonialization
  • Wealth-to-income ratio

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