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Class formation and consumption among middle-class professionals in Shenzhen

Klassenformation und Konsum unter den Mittelklasse-Fachkräften in Shenzhen
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Elfick, Jacqueline

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Abstract This paper explores the role of consumption in defining Chinese middle-class identity by examining the consumption practices of urban professionals. It is widely agreed that China has a thriving middle class. The exact definition of this middle class, however, is disputed by scholars and the Chinese popular press. Debates about class are also manifest in the daily lives of urban professionals. One of the most interesting areas in which identity is contested is that of consumption. The research is based on 60 in-depth interviews among professionals conducted in Shenzhen in the period 2004-2010. New wealth means that the myriad of goods on offer is accessible to large sections of the urban population. Professionals have become keen and selective shoppers. Many describe their consumption practices as informed by their own highly individualistic taste. This paper argues that professional consumption practices sometimes express individual taste but, more importantly, serve to articulate a collective social identity.
Keywords China; middle class; class-specific factors; consumption; urban population; identity; media; reporting; specialist; social inequality; social mobility; life style; consumer; individualization; consumption behavior; Asia
Classification General Sociology, Basic Research, General Concepts and History of Sociology, Sociological Theories; Sociology of Economics
Method empirical; qualitative empirical
Free Keywords Social science; Middle class; Consumption; Identity; Contemporary
Document language English
Publication Year 2011
Page/Pages p. 187-211
Journal Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, 40 (2011) 1
ISSN 1868-4874
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works