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Privilege and Anxiety: The Korean Middle Class in the Global Era

In Privilege and Anxiety, Hagen Koo examines what has happened to the Korean middle class in the era of rapid globalization and demonstrates that the middle class has experienced significant changes in its social character.

The middle classes in most advanced economies today are frequently described as being “squeezed” and “shrinking.” Globalization has inserted an “axis of polarization” into the middle class, separating a small minority that benefits from the globalized economy from the large majority that suffers from it. This internal differentiation generates a challenging dynamic within Korean society, as the newly affluent seek to distinguish themselves from the rest of the middle class, to establish a new, privileged, class position. Privilege and Anxiety explores how these tensions play out in three areas: consumption and lifestyle, residential differentiation, and education. In all three areas, the dominant orientation of the affluent middle class is to preserve their newfound privilege and pass it onto their children, causing much disaffection and anxiety to the less fortunate members.

Hagen Koo is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Hawaii. He is the author of Korean Workers.

Source: publisher’s website

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