In Marxist philosophy the bourgeoisie is the social class who owns the means of production and whose societal concerns are the value of propertyand the preservation of capital, to ensure the perpetuation of their economic supremacy in society.[1] Joseph Schumpeter instead saw the creation of new bourgeoisie as the driving force behind the capitalist engine, particularly entrepreneurs who took risks to bring innovation to industries and the economy through the process of creative destruction.[2]


Origins and rise

Further information: History of capitalism § Origins of capitalism and Trade § History

In the 11th century, the bourgeoisie emerged as a historical and political phenomenon when the bourgs of Central and Western Europe developed into cities dedicated to commerce. The organised economic concentration that made possible such urban expansion derived from the protective self-organisation into guilds, which became necessary when individual businessmen (craftsmen, artisans, merchants, et alii) conflicted with their rent-seeking feudal landlords who demanded greater-than-agreed rents. In the event, by the end of the Middle Ages (ca. AD 1500), under régimes of the early national monarchies of Western Europe, the bourgeoisie acted in self-interest, and politically supported the king or the queen against the legal and financial disorder caused by the greed of the feudal lords.[citation needed] In the late-16th and early 17th centuries, the bourgeoisies of England and the Netherlands had become the financial – thus political – forces that deposed the feudal order; economic power had vanquished military power in the realm of politics.[6]

From Progress to ReactionEdit

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the bourgeoisie were the politically progressive social class who supported the principles of constitutional government and of natural right, against the Law of Privilege and the claims of rule by divine right that the nobles and prelates had autonomously exercised during the feudal order. The motivations for the English Civil War (1642–51), the American War of Independence (1775–83), andFrench Revolution (1789–99) partly derived from the desire of the bourgeoisie to rid themselves of the feudal trammels and royal encroachments upon their personal liberty, commercial rights, and the ownership of property. In the 19th century, the bourgeoisie propounded liberalism, and gained political rights, religious rights, and civil liberties for themselves and the lower social classes; thus was the bourgeoisie then a progressive philosophic and political force in modern Western societies.

By the middle of the 19th century, subsequent to the Industrial Revolution (1750–1850), the great expansion of the bourgeoisie social class caused its self-stratification – by business activity and by economic function – into the haute bourgeoisie (bankers and industrialists) and the petite bourgeoisie (tradesmen and white-collar workers). Moreover, by the end of the 19th century, the capitalists (the original bourgeoisie) had ascended to the upper class, whilst the developments of technology and technical occupationsallowed the ascension of working-class men and women to the lower strata of the bourgeoisie; yet the social progress was incidental.

In the event, despite its initial philosophic progressivism – from feudalism to liberalism to capitalism – the bourgeoisie social class (haute and petite) became reactionary in their refusal to allow the ascension (economic, social, political) of people from the proletariat (peasants and urban workers) to maintain hegemony.[6]

Marxist TheoryEdit

According to Karl Marx, the bourgeois during Middle Ages usually was a self-employed businessman – such as a merchant, banker, or entrepreneur – whose economic role in society was being the financial intermediary to the feudal landlord and the peasant who worked the fief, the land of the lord. Yet, by the 18th century, the time of the Industrial Revolution (1750–1850) and of industrial capitalism, the bourgeoisie had become the economic ruling class who owned the means of production (capital and land), and who controlled the means of coercion (armed forces and legal system, police forces and prison system). In such a society, the bourgeoisie's ownership of the means of production enabled their employment and exploitation of the wage-earning working class (urban and rural), people whose sole economic means is labour; and the bourgeois control of the means of coercion suppressed the socio-political challenges of the lower classes, and so preserved the economic status quo; workers remained workers, and employers remained employers.[9]

In the 19th century, Marx distinguished two types of bourgeois capitalist: (i) the functional capitalist, the business administrator of the means of production; and (ii) the rentier capitalist whose livelihood derives either from the rent of property or from the interest-income produced by finance capital, or both.[10] In the course of economic relations, the working class and the bourgeoisie continually engage in class struggle, wherein the capitalists exploit the workers, whilst the workers resist their economic exploitation, which occurs because the worker owns no means of production, and, to earn a living, he or she seeks employment from the bourgeois capitalist; the worker produces goods and services that are property of the employer, who sells them for a price.

Besides describing the social class who own the means of production, the Marxist usage of the term "bourgeois" also describes theconsumerist style of life derived from the ownership of capital and real property. Marx acknowledged the bourgeois industriousness that created wealth, yet criticised the moral hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie when they ignored the alleged origins of their wealth – the exploitation of the proletariat, the urban and rural workers. Further sense denotations of "bourgeois" describe ideological concepts such as "bourgeois freedom", which is thought to be opposed to substantive forms of freedom; "bourgeois independence"; "bourgeois personal individuality"; the "bourgeois family"; et cetera, all derived from owning capital and property. (See: The Communist Manifesto, 1848.)

La Petite BourgeoisieEdit

The petite bourgeoisie consists of people who have experienced a brief ascension in social mobility for one or two generations.[citation needed] It usually starts with a trade or craft, and by the second and third generation, a family may rise another level. The petite bourgeois would belong to the British lower middle class and would be American middle income. They are distinguished mainly by their mentality, and would differentiate themselves from the proletariat or working class. This class would include artisans, small traders, shopkeepers, and small farm owners. They are not employed, but may not be able to afford employees themselves.

La Moyenne BourgeoisieEdit

People who belong to the moyenne bourgeoisie or middle bourgeoisie, have solid incomes and assets, but without the aura of those who have become established at a higher level. They tend to belong to a family that has been bourgeois for three or more generations.[citation needed] Some members of this class may have relatives from similar backgrounds, or may even have aristocratic connections. The moyenne bourgeoisie would be the equivalent of the British and American upper-middle classes.

La Grande BourgeoisieEdit

The grande bourgeoisie are families that have been bourgeois since the 19th century, or for at least four or five generations.[citation needed] Members of these families tend to marry with the aristocracy or make other advantageous marriages. This bourgeoisie family has acquired an established historical and cultural heritage over the decades. The names of these families are generally known in the city where they reside, and their ancestors have often contributed to the region's history. These families are respected and revered. They belong to the upper class, and in the British class system would be considered part of the gentry. In the French-speaking countries they are sometimes referred la petite haute bourgeoisie.

La Haute BourgeoisieEdit

The haute bourgeoisie is a social rank in the bourgeoisie that can only be acquired through time. In France, it is composed of bourgeois families that have existed since the French Revolution.[citation needed] They hold only honourable professions and have experienced many illustrious marriages in their family's history. They have rich cultural and historical heritages, and their financial means are more than secure. These families exude an aura of nobility, which prevents them from certain marriages or occupations. They only differ from nobility in that due to circumstances, the lack of opportunity, and/or political regime, they have not been ennobled. These people nevertheless live a lavish lifestyle, enjoying the company of the great artists of the time. In France, the families of the haute bourgeoisie are also referred to as les 200 familles, a term which was coined in the first half of the 20th century. Michel Pinçon and Monique Pinçon-Charlot have studied the lifestyle of the French bourgeoisie, and how they boldly guard their world from thenouveau riche, or newly rich.

In the French language, the term bourgeoisie almost designates a caste by itself, even though social mobility into this socio-economic group is possible. Nevertheless, thebourgeoisie is differentiated from la classe moyenne, or the middle class, which consists mostly of white-collar employees, by holding a profession referred to as a profession libérale, which la classe moyenne, in its definition does not hold.[citation needed] Yet, in English the definition of a white-collar job encompasses the profession libérale. As the world becomes globalised and society moves towards a corporate one, the term la bourgeoisie in its pure form has become a somewhat outdated term,[citation needed] which requires a more up-to-date definition.

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