Since 1991, when the policy of economic liberalisation began in earnest, the size and prosperity of India's middle class have grown considerably. Yet sound sociological and ethnographic information about its social structure and cultural values is still sparse, and as André Béteille (2003a: 75) comments: ‘Everything or nearly everything that is written about the Indian middle class is written by middle-class Indians…[who] tend to oscillate between self-recrimination and self-congratulation’ (cf. Béteille 2003b: 185). The former is exemplified by Pavan Varma's The Great Indian Middle Class (1998), which excoriates this class for its selfish materialism and the ‘retreat from idealism’ that was manifest in the smaller, ‘traditional middle class’ of the earlier, post-independence period (ibid.: 89). A good example of the opposite tendency is Gurcharan Das's India Unbound (2002), which celebrates ‘the rise of a confident new middle class’ (ibid.: 280). Das's diagnosis of what has changed is actually very similar to Varma's, but he insists that the new middle class is no ‘greedier’ than the old one, and the ‘chief difference is that there is less hypocrisy and more self-confidence’ (ibid.: 290).
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