The Academic Middle-Class Rebellion

Socio-Political Conflict Over Wage-Gaps in Israel, 1954-1956


This new research investigates socio-political and ethnic-cultural conflicts over wage gaps in Israel during the 1950s. The Academic Middle-Class Rebellion exposes the struggle of the Ashkenazi (European) professional elite to capitalize on its advantages during the first decade of Israeli statehood, by attempting to maximize wage gaps between themselves and the new Oriental Jewish proletariat. This struggle was met with great resistance from the government under the ruling party, Mapai, and its leader David Ben-Gurion. The clash between the two sides revealed diverse, contradictory visions of the optimal socio-economic foundation for establishing collective identity in the new nation-state. The study by Avi Bareli and Uri Cohen uncovers patterns that merged nationalism and socialism in 1950s Israel confronting a liberal and meritocratic vision.
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Biographical Note

Avi Bareli, Ph.D. (2000), Tel-Aviv University, is senior lecturer of History at the Ben-Gurion Research Institute, Ben-Gurion University. He has published monographs and articles in Israel Studies, including Authority and Participation in a New Democracy (Academic Studies Press, 2014).

Uri Cohen, Ph.D. (2001), Hebrew University in Jerusalem, is senior lecturer of Sociology at the School of Education of Tel-Aviv University. He has published monographs and articles on Israel's higher education, including The Mountain and the Hill (Am Oved, 2006).

Table of contents


1 Distributive Justice and the White-Collar Workforce: The Outbreak of Conflict

2 The ‘Engine-Coach Car’ Dilemma: MAPAI’s Discourse on Class, Ethnicity, and Modernization

3 “In Torn Soles on a Marble Floor”: The Guri Committee and Sharett Government Debates on White-Collar Workers’ Wages, 1954–1955

4 “On Your Mark!” Public Discourse after the 1955 Elections

5 “If they Strike—So be it!” The Socialist Pact to Thwart the Guri Committee Recommendations

6 A Class-Inclusive Strike

Summary and Conclusion
Reference List


All interested in the history and sociology of Israel, and anyone concerned with immigration, class and ethnic relations and processes of building post-colonial societies, economies, states and cultures.


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