The Middle Classes, Social Capital, and Social Control

Elizabeth K. Brown, University at Albany

In The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society, David Garland explicitly states that it is not his intention to map changes in punitiveness, or desire for harsher social control through segments of the U.S. or British populations (Garland 2001: 148). That being said, he explores the complicated and widespread increase in social conservatism from the early 70s through today by focusing on a specific portion of the American middle class: the professional middle class. He focuses attention on this occupationally and culturally defined substrata, claiming that since the late 1960s this demographic has been particularly influential in development of a culture increasingly concerned with control.

This paper will argue that because the non-professional middle class since the 1970s has experienced greater effects associated with slowing of economic growth and erosion of social capital, this non-professional stratum may have played a greater role in development of the culture of control than Garland suggests. Using data from the General Social Survey, this paper will examine the degree to which individuals in the upper and lower middle classes are concerned about social control in light of economic stresses and declining social capital.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006