The article offers a distinctive account of how the nouveaux riches serve as an anchor for a range of upper-middle-class ambivalences and anxieties associated with transformations of capitalism and shifting global hierarchies. Reflecting the long-term association of middle-class symbolic boundaries with notions of refinement and respectability, it examines how the discourse of civility shapes how the nouveaux riches are represented to the upper middle class, identifying a number of recurrent media frames and narrative tropes related to vulgarity, civility, and order. The author argues that these representations play a central role in the reproduction of the Western professional middle class, and in the cultural constitution of a global middle class—professional, affluent, urban, and affiliated by an aesthetic regime of civility that transcends national borders. The findings underline the significance of representations of the new super-rich as devices through which the media accomplish the global circulation of an upper-middle-class repertoire of cultural capital, which is used both to police shifting class boundaries and to establish a legitimate preserve for univorous snobbishness.


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pp. 29-47
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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