As it emerged in Anglo-American societies, middle class life was precarious and insecure. People in the middling ranks engaged in risk-taking and speculative activities, and they faced constant threat of bankruptcy, debtors’ prison and social disgrace. Likewise, their family lives were filled with risk and uncertainties. Middle class marriages were not arranged. They were marriages of mutual choice and affection. But the choice of a spouse was a speculative venture as well. Success depended on making a wise choice based on future expectations.Thus, the history of the expansion of the middle class has been a constant struggle to secure more people against the perils of a risk-taking way of life. This struggle was the impetus for the propagation of bourgeois values like thrift, sobriety, deferred gratification, self-control, financial discipline, time management and quest for learning. It was the impetus for the formation of voluntary and cooperative institutions like credit unions, trade unions, lending libraries, reform societies, civic clubs and religious organizations.Finally, it was the impetus for a system of government social supports such as public higher education, old age pensions, veterans’ benefits, college loans, government-insured mortgages and health insurance.
The Middle Class Constantly Seeks Stability – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com