Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Reproducing Class

Reproducing Class: Education, Neoliberalism, and the Rise of the New Middle Class in Istanbul

Henry J. Rutz
Erol M. Balkan
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 156
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Reproducing Class
    Book Description:

    Middle classes are by definition ambiguous, raising all sorts of paradoxical questions, perceived and real, about their power and place relative to those above and below them in a class-structured society. Focusing on families of the new middle class in Istanbul, the authors of this study address questions about the social construction of middle-class reality in the context of the rapid changes that have come about through recent economic growth in global markets and the global diffusion of information technology. After 1980, Turkey saw a structural transformation from state-owned and managed industry, banking, and media and communications to privatization and open markets. The idea of being middle class and the reality of middle-class practices became open for negotiation and interpretation. This study therefore offers a particularly interesting case study of an emergent global phenomenon known as the transnational middle class, characterized by their location of work in globalizing cities, development of transnational social networks, sumptuary consumption habits, and residences in gated communities. As the authors show, this new middle class associates quality education, followed by property and lifestyle issues, with the concept of a comfortable life.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-545-1
    Subjects: Economics, Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    It is a beautiful Saturday morning in late May. In Istanbul, spring is in the air; there is not the usual noise and scurrying around that one encounters during harried weekdays. It is the kind of morning when young parents are out and about with their children, when there is time to explore neighborhood surroundings without purpose or direction. We have been part of this scene countless times on our weekend walks around the backstreets of Beyoğlu (formerly Pera) and Karaköy (formerly Galata), two of the oldest areas of non-Turkish settlement that predate the establishment of Constantinople as the imperial...

  6. 1 Class Matters
    (pp. 11-16)

    When British Prime Minister Tony Blair reputedly was asked at a press conference about the value of education in today’s global economy, he is said to have responded gamely with the phrase, “the more you learn, the more you earn.” The stakes of becoming middle class and reproducing class have risen, increasing the demand for cultural capital in the form of education. New middle-class families, especially in globalizing cities around the world, from London to Bombay and New York to Istanbul, have awakened to the belief that the latest round of world capitalist accumulation constitutes a fundamental shift in their...

  7. 2 The Neoliberal Landscape
    (pp. 17-36)

    A coup in 1980 marked the end of national developmentalism in Turkey and the beginning of the country’s liberalization episode. The aim was to remove trade barriers in order to increase the rate of economic growth through an export-oriented strategy aimed at entry into global markets. By 1980, Turkey had a modern class structure built on the foundation of a combination of state-owned and state-guided private enterprises. There was a thriving national market for consumer goods produced by Turkish manufacturers and nursed by state promotion of a cultural ideology of consumption. The captains of industry had achieved the status of...

  8. 3 The Making of an Education Hierarchy
    (pp. 37-52)

    After the founding of the republic in 1923, among the first acts performed in the Grand National Assembly by the Republican People’s Party was the Unification of Education Act in 1924, which placed all types of education under a single authority vested in the Ministry of National Education (Milli Eğitim Bakanliği). Included in this sweep were the existing Islamic schools and the foreign (mostly Christian) schools. The significance of this event is that the founders understood that the republican state would be “realized” and legitimated through a form of “modern” education that was sweeping across Europe from its origins in...

  9. 4 Familism
    (pp. 53-70)

    Reproduction begins on the ground. To paraphrase Engels, the reproduction of human beings and the reproduction of their conditions of existence are the roots of all forms of economic, social, and cultural practices in human history. What anthropologists understood from the beginning of their discipline is that these practices are both universal and variable. There is no necessity for households to be formed by “marriage,” but in all human societies, “marriage” of one kind or another is an important organizing concept for household formation, one of the roots of the reproduction of our species. Likewise, there is no necessity for...

  10. 5 Competition and Cultural Reproduction
    (pp. 71-94)

    Istanbul middle-class parents have, for several generations, continued to believe that elite private middle schools constituted the main path to the best universities and, in turn, increased their children’s life chances. Elite middle-school education was emblematic of a wide range of beliefs about a comfortable material and social life, and a prestigious higher education degree that added value to the accumulation of a family’s symbolic and economic capital. To this day, elite middle schools, most of them concentrated in Istanbul, represent the symbolic capital of enlightened reason in a secular state. The schools stand as icons of European sophistication and...

  11. 6 Preparing to Win a Place
    (pp. 95-122)

    New middle-class parents viewed the SMSEs as an invasion of family privacy and violation of the rights they assert over dominion of the conjugal family, particularly over childhood, but also the freedom to live their social lives without interference from the state. Some parents, mostly fathers, were emotional over loss of intimacy within their conjugal relationship. Loss of childhood, social alienation, and threat to conjugal intimacy were portrayed in narratives as “sacrifices” almost too great to bear. Too great, that is, but for one overarching value: winning places in private foreign-language schools that teach in foreign languages using foreign teachers....

  12. 7 Testing the Limits of the New Middle Class
    (pp. 123-126)

    Istanbul new middle-class families could be excused for their obsession with testing. The state imposed a series of national tests that came to dominate the way in which families would think about themselves and their reproduction by means of education. First in order came the SMSEs for eleven-year olds that would determine who would take the small number of seats in the best middle schools. Then, in 1997, the SMSEs were replaced by the Eighth Grade Exam that would determine who would take the limited number of seats in the best high schools. The University Entrance Examinations followed soon after...

  13. Appendix A. Istanbul Socioeconomic Household Survey, 1993
    (pp. 127-130)
  14. Appendix B. Interviews, 1996
    (pp. 131-132)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 133-136)
  16. Index
    (pp. 137-140)