The Expanding and Consolidating ‘Middle Class’ in Contemporary Nepal
While the ‘middle class’ elsewhere is said to be vanishing especially after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the concomitant ‘end of history’ (Fukuyama 1992), and the market triumphalism (for critique, see Sandel 2012), in countries like Nepal, however, the middle class is expanding and consolidating throughout. Taken in gradational sense (Weber 1922) the debate on middle class spans nearly over 100 years, and alternatively, when taken in relational sense the debate crosses over 170 years or so (Marx and Engels 1848). The debate has revived after the turn of the century.
In this paper, I plan to present a frame of analysis of the ‘middle class’ in the context of Nepali society in the riddle of unprecedented socio-political transition, 1990-2017. I argue that instead of vanishing (Temin 2017) and collapsing or disappearing (Warren 2008), the middle class in Nepal is reproducing, expanding and consolidating itself. I plan to base my arguments on an examination of income rise and corresponding decline in poverty and deprivation in Nepal over the last few decades; a critical examination of expanding connectivity, modernity and developmental practices; an analysis of shifting regimes of livelihoods and proliferation of market-based exchange relations; and finally, a broad stork analysis of the complex historical regime of Nepal’s state formation and the attendant socio-political development.