Media Representations of the Nouveaux Riches and the Cultural Constitution of the Global Middle Class
journal contributionposted on 11.04.2019, 08:28 by Jennifer Smith Maguire
The article offers a distinctive account of how the nouveaux riches serve as an anchor for a range of upper middle class ambivalences and anxieties associated with transformations of capitalism and shifting global hierarchies. Reflecting the long-term association of middle class symbolic boundaries with notions of refinement and respectability, I examine how the discourse of civility shapes how the nouveaux riches are represented to the upper middle class, identifying a number of recurrent media frames and narrative tropes related to vulgarity, civility and order. I argue that these representations play a central role in the reproduction of the Western professional middle class, and in the cultural constitution of a global middle class—professional, affluent, urban and affiliated by an aesthetic regime of civility that transcends national borders. The findings underline the significance of representations of the new super rich as devices through which the media accomplish the global circulation of an upper-middle-class repertoire of cultural capital, which is used both to police shifting class boundaries and to establish a legitimate preserve for univorous snobbishness.