No matter what time period you are referring to, no matter what country or region of the world you are referencing, there is a single claim that you can make that will always be true and will never be challenged, not even by Malcolm Gladwell himself: the middle class is always in the process of emerging. Like a shivering, fluffy clutch of chicks poking their heads out of the membraneous shards of a newly-cracked shell, the middle class is in a constant state of emergence.
That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Want to sound like an authority on growing third-world markets, whatever those are? Talk about the increased influence of the emerging middle class.
Writing a history essay about the policies of Louis XIV? Don’t forget to include a paragraph or two about the checks on his national authority by the newly influential middle class.
What was the middle class doing during the Victorian Era? Emerging.
What is the middle class doing in China right now, this very moment? Emerging. Oh, look, what’s that over there? It’s the middle class, just down the road in India, and they’re emerging all over the place.
What couldn’t you stop the middle class from doing in medieval and then again in Renaissance Europe? I’ll give you a hint. It rhymes with “flemerging.” Which, incidentally, is how scholars describe the very specific emergence of the Flemish middle class.