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The declining middle: occupational change, social status, and the populist right


Kurer, Thomas (2020). The declining middle: occupational change, social status, and the populist right. Comparative Political Studies, 53(10-11):1798-1835.

Abstract

This article investigates the political consequences of occupational change in times of rapid technological advancement and sheds light on the economic and cultural roots of right-wing populism. A growing body of research shows that the disadvantages of a transforming employment structure are strongly concentrated among semiskilled routine workers in the lower middle class. I argue that individual employment trajectories and relative shifts in the social hierarchy are key to better understand recent political disruptions. A perception of relative economic decline among politically powerful groups—not their impoverishment—drives support for conservative and, especially, right-wing populist parties. Individual-level panel data from three postindustrial democracies and original survey data demonstrate this relationship. A possible interpretation of the findings is that traditional welfare policy might be an ineffective remedy against the ascent of right-wing populism.

Abstract

This article investigates the political consequences of occupational change in times of rapid technological advancement and sheds light on the economic and cultural roots of right-wing populism. A growing body of research shows that the disadvantages of a transforming employment structure are strongly concentrated among semiskilled routine workers in the lower middle class. I argue that individual employment trajectories and relative shifts in the social hierarchy are key to better understand recent political disruptions. A perception of relative economic decline among politically powerful groups—not their impoverishment—drives support for conservative and, especially, right-wing populist parties. Individual-level panel data from three postindustrial democracies and original survey data demonstrate this relationship. A possible interpretation of the findings is that traditional welfare policy might be an ineffective remedy against the ascent of right-wing populism.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Sociology and Political Science
Uncontrolled Keywords:sociology and political science European politics, political economy, quantitative methods
Language:English
Date:September 2020
Deposited On:29 Dec 2020 09:26
Last Modified:25 Mar 2024 02:43
Publisher:Sage Publications
ISSN:0010-4140
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/0010414020912283
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDP1ZHP1_171881
  • : Project TitleThe Declining Middle: Political Reactions to Occupational Change
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID100017_146104
  • : Project TitleYears of Turmoil: The Political Consequences of the Financial and Economic Crisis in Europe
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial 1.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 1.0)