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Title:The status quo of politics or the politics of the status quo: The political role of the Colombian middle class
Author(s):Wilson, Suzanne Beall
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Es, John van
Department / Program:Sociology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, Latin American
Political Science, General
Sociology, General
Abstract:Using Colombia as a case study, the study empirically examines major theoretical debates about the Latin American middle class' politics. Theoretical debates about the middle class' politics have focussed on the controversial progressive theory, which argues that the Latin American middle class supports democracy, economic development, and reforms addressing economic inequality. In contrast, dependency theorists and theorists who view the middle class as politically and economically insecure have asserted that the middle class is authoritarian and opposes economic development and policies that alleviate economic inequality.
Multi-class survey data from Colombia collected in 1976-77 and 1985 demonstrate that no theory is completely correct in its depictions of the middle class. As with other Colombian social classes, the middle class supports democracy; yet, it simultaneously embodies complex and, at times, contradictory attitudes toward democracy. While the middle class, like other social classes, generally opposes government economic intervention, it favors a mixed economy and forms of government economic intervention that benefit it economically. The middle class is internally divided in its support for policies to alleviate economic inequality with large minorities supporting such policies. An interclass polarization is present for many policies, especially those relating to land reform, with the lower class favoring policies to ameliorate economic inequality, the upper class opposing such policies, and the middle class occupying an intermediate position vis-a-vis other classes.
The findings that the middle class has complex political attitudes, that it is alternately different and similar to other classes, and that the middle class has varying patterns of alliances with other classes suggest that theoretical portrayals of the class should not be painted in simplistic terms. The middle class fits neither the progressive theorists' idealized picture nor the demonized view of dependency theorists and theorists who portray the middle class as insecure.
With its intermediate stance on policies addressing economic inequality, the middle class may play a role as the swing class in debates over land reform and other economic redistributional issues. The middle class, as such, may perform a pivotal role in determining the outcome of political debates about reform and redistribution.
Issue Date:1995
Rights Information:Copyright 1995 Wilson, Suzanne Beall
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9522188
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9522188

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