Chapter

Maladies of the Middle Class

Robert Wuthnow

in Christianity in the Twenty-First Century

Published in print June 1995 | ISBN: 9780195096514
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199853380 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195096514.003.0015
Maladies of the Middle Class

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Although a substantial minority of Americans live below the poverty line, and a few enjoy enormous wealth, the vast majority constitute the middle class. It has been the middle class that has shaped American Christianity in the past, and it will continue to do so in the future. If we are to understand the culture of American religion in the 21st century, therefore, we must not neglect the special role of the middle class. The distinguishing feature of the middle class is its obsession with work and money. Combine this penchant for materialism with our drive to work harder and harder, and the result is an escalation of job stress, burnout, and related physical and emotional symptoms. There are two perspectives that supply meaning or legitimation to the economic habits of the middle class: the economic perspective which emphasizes marginal utility, and the medical perspective which considers health as a much more basic consideration in balancing work and other activities, rather than focusing entirely on money.

Keywords: Christianity; middle class; materialism; work; money; religion; job stress; marginal utility; health

Chapter.  5215 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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