On the ‘great’ Indian middle class

The middle class, for all its privileges, is an inherently insecure class. And as it grows, it will become more insecure. Against the upper classes, the genuinely wealthy and the genuinely powerful, it always harbours a deep suspicion. It regards politicians as usurpers who have somehow coaxed the less worthy masses into giving them power. It asserts its superiority over entrepreneurs by holding on to the suspicion that great wealth must always be ill gotten. Despite the growth of private sector-led middle class employment, the social acceptance of enterprise is skin deep in India. And it is not an accident that whenever the middle class flexes its political muscle, the resultant imagination is almost always more bureaucratic, both anti-masses and anti-creativity. But the middle class is deeply insecure in another sense. The genie of competition has been unleashed at every level; just witness the scramble for education. But this creates a psychological disposition of even more unstated insecurity: a mad scramble to hold on to whatever shards of privilege are left. It retreats into a narrow politics of protecting itself, and into its illusions of superiority

Pratap Bhanu Mehta


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