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Professional Middle Class Youth in Post-Reform Vietnam: Identity, Continuity and Change

  • VICTOR T. KING, PHUONG AN NGUYEN and NGUYEN HUU MINH

Abstract

There is very little information or analysis on middle class youth in Vietnam. This paper begins to fill this gap in our knowledge by utilising data on urban, educated professional youth from the Survey Assessment of Vietnamese Youth (2003–04) and an ethnographic investigation in Hanoi between 1999 and 2002. It considers some of the conceptual and analytical issues in addressing the character and definition of the middle class in Southeast Asia more generally, and provides contextual information on the emergence of the middle class in Vietnam and the transformation of the class structure there. The information available suggests that the expanding young middle class in Vietnam exhibits many of the characteristics of the middle class everywhere—possession of cultural capital, a firm interest in and commitment to education, an orientation to consumption and to accessing news and information, and aspirations to improve and develop in personal and career terms. However, the continuing close relationship between members of the middle class and the Vietnamese state suggests that there is little evidence as yet of the middle class developing a political identity or of the emergence of civil society. The data demonstrate continuity in state-generated employment and education between the current generation and its predecessor, which arises from the continuing influence of the state on Vietnamese society in its role as provider of employment, career paths, education and scholarships, as well as from the continuing influence of the senior generation on their children.

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Corresponding author

Professor Victor T. King, Department of East Asian Studies, University of Leeds, UK (v.t.king@leeds.ac.uk)
Dr. Nguyen Huu Minh, Institute for Family and Gender Studies, Hanoi, Vietnam (ngaanh@hn.vnn.vn)
Dr. Phuong An Nguyen, School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds (p.a.nguyen@leeds.ac.uk)

References

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