Modernity, Cosmopolitanism, and the Emergence of Middle Classes in Tonga

Besnier, Niko
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University of Hawai‘i Press
Center for Pacific Islands Studies
The formation of social classes in Pacific Islands societies and in their diasporas continues to raise theoretical questions about the nature of social classes and their relationship to prior forms of social organization. In Tonga, middle classes both reproduce aspects of the older rank-based system with which they continue to coexist and innovate new forms of acting and being, many of which emerged with the diasporic explosion of the society. While “middle-classness” is fragile and shifting, it is constituted by four important characteristics: an intense awareness of the extralocal; a valorization of consumption; multiple modes of livelihood; and the commoditization of structures of reciprocity. These characteristics form a basis for comparison of Tongan middle classes with non–middle classes locally and with middle classes in other societies of the Pacific and beyond.
social class, diaspora, modernity, cosmopolitanism, consumption, commoditization, Tonga
Besnier, N. 2009. Modernity, Cosmopolitanism, and the Emergence of Middle Classes in Tonga. The Contemporary Pacific 21 (2): 215-262.
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