Perhaps the most commonly held assumption in the field of
development is that middle classes are the bounty of economic
modernization and growth. As countries gradually transcend their
agrarian past and become urbanized and industrialized, so the logic
goes, middle classes emerge and gain in number, complexity,
cultural influence, social prominence, and political authority. Yet
this is only half the story. Middle classes shape industrial and
economic development, they are not merely its product; the
particular ways in which middle classes shape themselves - and the
ways historical conditions shape them - influence development
trajectories in multiple ways. This is the story of South Korea's
and Taiwan's economic successes and Argentina's and Mexico's
relative 'failures' through an examination of their rural middle
classes and disciplinary capacities.
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