Rewealthization in twenty-first century Western countries: the defining trend of the socioeconomic squeeze of the middle class

Louis Chauvel, Eyal Bar Haim, Anne Hartung, Emily Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The wealth-to-income ratio (WIR) in many Western countries, particularly in Europe and North America, increased by a factor of two in the last three decades. This represents a defining empirical trend: a rewealthization (from the French repatrimonialisation)—or the comeback of (inherited) wealth primacy since the mid-1990s. For the sociology of social stratification, “occupational classes” based on jobs worked must now be understood within a context of wealth-based domination. This paper first illustrates important empirical features of an era of rising WIR. We then outline the theory of rewealthization as a major factor of class transformations in relation to regimes stabilized in the post-WWII industrial area. Compared to the period where wealth became secondary to education and earnings for middle-class lifestyles, rewealthization steepens society's vertical structure; the "olive-shaped" Western society is replaced by a new one where wealth "abundance" at the top masks social reproduction and frustrations below.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
JournalJournal of Chinese Sociology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


This work was supported by the Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg (FNR), FNR/P11/05 & FNR/P11/05bis. The authors would like to thank scholars including Mike Savage, Goran Therborn, Li Chunling, Li Peilin, members of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences of China, the organizers of the Kunming conference in the context of 2019 CASS Forum "Road and Experience in the Founding of New China: Social Development during the Last 70 Years" (2019 中国社会科学论坛: 道路与经验:新中国社会发展 70 年学术研讨会), and the anonymous reviewers.

FundersFunder number
Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences of China
Fonds National de la Recherche LuxembourgFNR/P11/05


    • Inequality
    • Middle-class society
    • Repatrimonialization
    • Wealth-to-income ratio


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