University Singapore University of Social Science (SUSS)
Subject SOC367: Southeast Asian Societies

Question

This question focuses on the ‘middle class’ in Southeast Asian societies. While elites and peasants have long been the subject of scholarly research, the middle class has only more recently become the subject of intense sociological interest.

The central issues that have preoccupied sociologists in this connection are questions such as: What are the unifying characteristics of the ‘middle class’? If this class is not a homogenous entity, what is the significance of using this concept in the Southeast Asian context?

How have processes of bureaucratic expansion and colonial capitalist expansion given rise to patronage politics involving the emerging middle class?

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Focus your discussion of these issues on the following questions:

  1. What are the general factors that lead to the emergence of the middle class in Southeast Asian societies? How diverse is the middle class? Appraise how the emergence of the middle class is related to the processes of bureaucratization of society.
  2. Select TWO case studies from Southeast Asian societies to demonstrate the difficulties sociologists face in defining the middle class in Southeast Asia.
  3. Focus on ONE example to discuss what the nature of the middle class in this specific Southeast Asian society tells you about the economic processes and socio-political structuring of that society.
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