What we understand by the term middle class today most probably belongs to the previous century. Perhaps it was a glimpse of history, a product of the acme of capitalism from 1850 to 1990. This may be an acceptable slice of history, but its contours shift and analysts’ opinions vary. Nevertheless, there seems to be a consensus on the fact that lower middle class urban culture is the reflection of a historical phenomenon: of the past.
A recent study which found that Greeks are among the most susceptible to fake news or the leftist opposition party’s stubborn opposition to stricter university entry criteria serves as a reminder that the values formerly associated with the lower middle class have faded – and not only in Greece. It’s not just that they have faded in terms of estimation and expectation. Worse, they have been systematically undermined to the point of ridicule.
The social paradigm shift is mainly noticeable in the questioning of expertise. It was the idea of knowledge that fueled the Greek dream which motivated generations of village children over the 19th and 20th centuries to acquire academic or technical knowledge through hard work and dedication. This model played a key role in the urbanization of Greek society, a lengthy as well as successful process. It was founded on the values of progress, as understood by the previous generations and as largely adopted by the people of the previous century.
The notion of progress perceives society as an incubator for the individual. Individuals evolve in relation to society, they grow and in return give the fruit of their labor back to society. In the 21st century, the process appears to have gone in reverse. Narcissistic individuals express their complacency across social media dashboards and become trained to the idea that society owes them. Defeated expectations cause neuroses. The new lower middle class is held together by shared convictions about automatic social mobility, cost-free self-promotion, fast money and the discrediting of authority. This new human type that follows the noise on the internet and the personas that most remind him of himself will make more and more noise. The 21st century is gradually bringing down the old hierarchies.