Lecture: The Making of the Urban Middle Class in South Korea and China

image: Saunders HallThe Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawai’i at Mānoa Depart­ment of Polit­i­cal Sci­ence will present a lec­ture titled “The Mak­ing of the Urban Mid­dle Class in South Korea and Chi­na” by Dr. Myungji Yang on Mon­day, April 29, 2013. The pre­sen­ta­tion will take place in Saun­ders Hall 624 (Har­ry Fried­man Room) at 2424 Maile Way on the UH Mānoa cam­pus, from 9:30 a.m. until 11:00 a.m.

Dr. Yang’s talk will address how the dis­course about the mid­dle class served to cre­ate fast-grow­ing yet order­ly mar­ket economies in South Korea (1961 – 1979) and Chi­na (1978 – 2008). She argues that state-spon­sored mid­dle-class for­ma­tion served to strength­en a state vision of nation­al devel­op­ment and mod­ern­iza­tion in both of these coun­tries in spite of their dif­fer­ent socioe­co­nom­ic sys­tems. A num­ber of social-sci­ence stud­ies have treat­ed the mid­dle class as a result of eco­nom­ic expan­sion. Lit­tle atten­tion has been paid to how the state delib­er­ate­ly pro­duced spe­cif­ic mean­ings, sym­bols, and val­ues that were chan­neled through the mid­dle class and how the rise of the mid­dle class, in turn, influ­enced the polit­i­cal dynam­ics of devel­op­men­tal processes. 

Draw­ing evi­dence from archival data and in-depth inter­views, she seeks to demon­strate that the cat­e­go­ry of the mid­dle class became a chan­nel through which to show­case upward mobil­i­ty in a time of grow­ing social inequal­i­ty. Trac­ing the process­es of state-spon­sored mid­dle-class for­ma­tion in these two coun­tries, she focus­es on state ide­o­log­i­cal projects that cre­at­ed an image of “devel­op­men­tal sub­jects” prac­tic­ing dis­ci­plined lifestyles and effec­tive­ly dis­sem­i­nat­ed dis­ci­pline through­out soci­ety. The cre­ation and growth of this new mid­dle class in rel­a­tive­ly class­less, egal­i­tar­i­an Korea and Chi­na could serve as evi­dence for author­i­tar­i­an states to pro­mote an improved stan­dard of liv­ing and thus appeal to the rest of the pop­u­la­tion striv­ing to enhance their livelihoods.

For fur­ther infor­ma­tion about the talk, con­tact the Depart­ment of Polit­i­cal Sci­ence at (808) 956‑8357; e-mail: polisci@hawaii.edu.