Zur Mitte drängt sich alles (Teil 2).
Die Gegenwart im Lichte historischer Klassenstudien
In public opinion and the social sciences, German post-war society has been interpreted as a ‘society beyond classes’, regardless of the fact that the class structure had not changed to a significant degree since the times of the Weimar Republic. This positive self-image was scientifically confirmed by Theodor Geiger’s study Society in the melting pot (1949) and Helmut Schelsky’s concept of a Leveled middle class society (1953). Even though in the last decades the level of inequality has risen, the mainstream of social and economic research in Germany keeps focusing on the income, living conditions and ‘anxieties’ of a widened and vaguely defined middle class – instead of reflecting the class structure of contemporary society as a whole. This kind of research and sociological thinking tends to focus on the distribution of wealth rather the causes of inequality stemming from the capitalist mode of production. Criticizing the dominant conception of middle classes on the basis of current examples, the author underlines the importance of a classrelated concept of modern capitalist society. The main groups of employees, even the more qualified ones, belong to the majority class of wage earners, not to an opaque ‘middle class’ unduly mixed of small business people, freelancers and dependent labour force. What is needed is a closer look at the changes in class structure and the growing influence of gender, habitus, milieus and ‘ways of life’ – but not at all the ideological and political segregation between the allegedly ‘old’ working class and the allegedly ‘new’ middle classes.