chapter  9
18 Pages

Taiwan: a fragmented 'middle' class in the making

The focus of this chapter is on a specific category of wealthy individuals who have recently emerged in the course of industrialisation in Taiwan: the new rich. As the term <new rich' suggests, two criteria are critical: the first is the characteristic of being 'new', and the second is the trait of being 'rich'. 'New' and 'rich' are two concepts that cannot be understood in separation. They have to be put back into the context from which the affluence of Taiwan is derived. In other words, conceptually as well as empirically, these two basic demarcating criteria - new and rich - are inseparably related to the context of capitalist expansion that has involved Taiwan. The identification of 'new' elements in the hierarchy of the social stratification requires the existence of an old structure of social classes to provide a comparative basis. In the case of Taiwan, the transition from an agricultural society to an industrial one, mainly caused by the adoption of a market-oriented developmental strategy, is presumed to explain the presence of the varied new rich individuals in the late 1980s.