Over the last decades a large body of theoretical and empirical research has documented the declining living standards and loss of security of the middle class. This paper argues that a large part of this research captures neither the extent and intensity of the hardship endured by the middle classes, nor its impact on civil coexistence and the functioning of economic and political institutions. Among the middle class, confidence in institutions, civic values and trust in other people have all been declining. The paper argues that this condition of economic and relational difficulty needs a new social policy strategy capable of protecting these social groups against the growing risk of instability and of contributing to the rebuilding of a sense of belonging and identity.
Keywords: Middle Class; Welfare Dualization; Welfare Retrenchment; Institutionalized Individualism; Social Vulnerability.