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The Declining Middle: Occupational Change, Social Status, and the Populist Right

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This article investigates the political consequences of occupational change in times of rapid technological advancement and sheds light on the economic and cultural roots of right-wing populism. A growing body of research shows that the disadvantages of a transforming employment structure are strongly concentrated among semiskilled routine workers in the lower middle class. I argue that individual employment trajectories and relative shifts in the social hierarchy are key to better understand recent political disruptions. A perception of relative economic decline among politically powerful groups—not their impoverishment—drives support for conservative and, especially, right-wing populist parties. Individual-level panel data from three postindustrial democracies and original survey data demonstrate this relationship. A possible interpretation of the findings is that traditional welfare policy might be an ineffective remedy against the ascent of right-wing populism.




Kurer, T. (2020). The Declining Middle: Occupational Change, Social Status, and the Populist Right. Comparative Political Studies, 53(10–11), 1798–1835.

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