Social Classes

  • Philip Ouston


THE middle class has occupied the commanding heights of France’s economy for more than a century, and the character of the modern nation as a whole has been broadly determined by this ascendancy. But the composition of the class, and its influence, have changed significantly since the Second World War. The old middle class, living by property, savings, manufacturing, trade and the professions, is still quite strongly entrenched in the provinces, particularly in the least industrialised ones. But its place is being taken, or challenged, everywhere by a new salaried, managerial and technocratic ruling class of what the French call cadres (originally an Army term meaning ‘staff’). These‘new notables’ keep many traditionally middle-class standards. They value good talk, good food, good manners and, above all, the best education for their children, on whose behalf they show traditionally intense concern for success in the long, hard steeplechase of qualifying and competitive examinations by way of which the modern Republic selects practically all its potential leaders. Generally speaking, the cadres share too with the old middle class a comfortable sense of privilege, and a sense of social responsibility that is real, though it may be limited in scope.


Middle Class Modern Republic Comfortable Sense Wine Vinegar French Farming 
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© Philip Ouston 1972

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  • Philip Ouston

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