The Crisis of the Global Middle Class: Part I

The Crisis of the Global Middle Class: Part I

Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series examining the crisis of the global middle class. Part I will examine the challenges facing the global middle class and the implications for international politics. Part II will examine ways to strengthen the global middle class and avoid the potential dangers of economic polarization.

When Mohammed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire outside a local government office in December 2010, his desperate act set off an unexpected yet wide-ranging chain reaction throughout the region. Demonstrations that broke out in his small town spread all the way to the capital, Tunis, ultimately bringing former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s 23-year rule to an end. In Egypt, demonstrators soon filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square, eventually overthrowing the 40-year reign of former President Hosni Mubarak. Other authoritarian leaders fell after decades in power in Libya and Yemen. One of the last holdouts from the Arab Spring, Syria is now on the verge of collapse, mired in an unwinnable civil war.

Historically, political upheaval on such a scale, in such a short period of time and over such a large area has usually resulted either from the spread of revolutionary ideologies or outright war. Fascism reached its apex during World War II, while democracy and communism remade the world map during the Cold War. Before that, land armies fought across Asia, the Middle East and Europe while navies contested the world’s oceans throughout the age of empires.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.