Manichaeism, the middle class and the Victoria Square protests in Bucharest

Magdalena Craciun

Stefan Lipan


Photo by Alexandra Dinca

Many protesters describe themselves as belonging to the middle-class. However, the most frequent depictions have a more aesthetic/ethical side to them: beautiful people, which has currently evolved into young & free beautiful people. Our research shows that these are frequently used characterisations for the middle class.

This perspective has strong moral connotations attached like goodness, and righteousness, grounded in a particular ethics of responsibility similar to that of the global middle classes (Heiman, Freeman and Liechty 2012).1

The leftist commentators also identified the majority of protesters as belonging to the middle class (read also „corporatists”). However, their critical approach brings a different moral view to the foreground. Tamás (2017)2, for example, argues that „the demonstrations are fuelled by the contempt of the young liberal middle class for the poor who are regarded as the electorate of the governing party, the PSD, considered old and decrepit and barbarian.” Or, to give another example, Poenaru (2017)3 claims that “what always lurks in the background is class politics, and these protests are no different. In very broad strokes, the mobilization against the government was also a mobilization against its economic policies. The Social Democrats increased the minimum wage and pensions, cut taxes for the poorest segments, and increased – even though just slightly, compared to the needs – the social welfare spending. […] Unsurprisingly, corporate workers (especially their bosses), were on the streets to protest.”

Class struggle is also a moral struggle.

1 Heiman, Rachel, Carla Freeman, and Mark Liechty. 2012. The Global Middle Classes: Theorizing Through Ethnography. Santa Fe, NM: School for Advanced Research Press.