A New Middle Class on Old Academic Grounds: Law Students of the Cluj University in the 1930s

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Abstract

One of the main tasks of universities of Central and Eastern Europe is that of forming loyal and reliable citizens ready to fill in the ranks of public service. Educational credentials make for social elevation into the ranks of this peculiarly state-dependent middle class. Law students make the relative majority of those engaged in higher learning in the region all through the first half of the 20th century. Where and when there is an acute need for a new middle class under a new state sovereignty, it is law studies that are notoriously perceived as meant to producing the bulk of it. The University of Cluj in the inter-war period is a case in point. The paper shall put forward a selection of data (from an ample statistical survey of elite formation via upper-level education in Central Europe) on this segment of the student population in the 1930s, setting it against a dramatically changed background (the general one and the local one, as traced in secondary sources): how do Romanians cope with the task of producing this new middle class on old grounds, and what are the unwanted side-effects of such state-related social emancipation mechanisms? And how non-Romanians behave in the new situation?

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