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Bourgeoisie

BOURGEOISIE

BOURGEOISIE. For much of the twentieth century, historians used the term "bourgeoisie" unselfconsciously to denote that rather vague middle group between the nobility and the masses of peasants and urban workers. The middle classes, the middling sort, the Bürgertum, the bourgeoisie; these terms were all used to describe the merchants, the guild members, the pensioners, and the elite non-nobles (professionals, financiers, and officials) who dominated much of the early modern urban landscape. They enter the European scene in the Middle Agesthe tradesmen and other urban figures who did not fit neatly into the idealized tripartite society of Three Orders: those who pray, those who fight, and those who work. These individuals worked, but they did not till the land like peasants. While some definitions of bourgeoisie include the artisan, most exclude those whose work soiled their hands. But these urban merchants and manufacturers were economically useful; they dealt in goods, and they dealt in cash. They would become Max Weber's Protestant capitalist, imbued with an ethic of ascetic capitalism, and Karl Marx's budding bourgeois class, the owners of the means of production. We see hints of this nineteenth-century meaning of bourgeoisie in earlier times; workers referred to their employers as "bourgeois," and peasants used the same term for their urban landlords.

DIFFICULTIES OF DEFINITION

Historians of France have led the way in trying to better understand the character and function of the early modern bourgeoisie. Steeped in a Marxist historiography that termed the French Revolution a "bourgeois revolution" fueled by class conflict between a politically aspiring bourgeoisie and a moribund aristocracy, scholars have closely examined the social class structure of Old Regime France in search of an economic and political bourgeoisie that would seize control of the Revolution's direction. But revisionist historians since the early 1970s have worked to demolish the Marxist framework, the notion of a dynamic precapitalist bourgeoisie leading a world-historical Marxian revolution. The bourgeoisie, if it existed prior to the French Revolution, they argue, was risk-adverse and keener on social mobility than class power. As soon as they earned enough money, individuals wanted to leave the bourgeoisie to become part of the nobility. Members of this group were far more attached to the trappings of status than to the accumulation of capital, the fruits of profit. Furthermore, links between the upper reaches of the bourgeoisie and the nobilitywho frequently intermarried, and socialized in the salons and academieswere so close as to render meaningless the notion of "class conflict" between aristocrat and bourgeois. The elitenoble and non-noblewas quite unified, certainly more unified than any amorphous "bourgeoisie."

This suggests the importance of social mobility to any definition of bourgeoisie. Traditionally, historians have differentiated between the upper, the middle, and the petty bourgeoisie. There was always some mobility within this group; an education and a profession, not to mention the accumulation of wealth, could move one from the ranks of the petty into the middle, or from the middle into the upper bourgeoisie. But there was also movement from the upper reaches of the bourgeoisie into the ranks of the elite. As the numbers and power of old noble families began to decline in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in a number of western European countries, many wealthy bourgeois families moved in to take their place through the purchase of land, and eventually, the purchase of venal offices, some of which conferred noble title. Social mobilityup and downblurs the boundaries between the bourgeoisie and other social groups.

These fuzzy boundaries complicate the picture considerably. Focusing on linguistic and cultural categories, Sarah Maza argues that there was no middle classno "bourgeoisie" beyond a precise set of legal meaningsin pre-Revolutionary France. According to Maza, until there is an actual discourse about the middle class, until it is named and given a social, political, moral, or historical importance, it does not exist; and thus, it did not exist in early modern France. A similar argument has been made for early modern England and for other European countries. Nineteenth- and twentieth-century sociological definitions of the bourgeoisie fit uncomfortably in early modern society, which would not have recognized the categories we impose.

Furthermore, the bourgeoisiecomposed of relatively comfortable urban dwellerswas a small segment of the population in any European country before the nineteenth century, seldom more than 10 percent of the total population, except in the commercial countries of Holland and England, where the total urban population surpassed 50 percent and 25 percent, respectively. About 20 to 30 percent of Londoners were members of the middle classes by the eighteenth century, with some 3 to 5 percent in the upper class. During the same period, about 8 percent of the French population could be considered bourgeoisbut only about 2 percent of the population counted in the upper reaches of that group. In other words, the size of the upper bourgeoisie in France was roughly equivalent to that of the nobility. The same was true in the city of Nuremburg in the sixteenth century, where rough numerical parity existed between the rich merchants of the city and the aristocracy.

Moreover, lack of real class solidarity attenuated the political importance of the bourgeoisie. Even in Great Britain, which boasted perhaps the largest and proudest middle class in Europe by 1800, the aristocracy dominated the reins of government well into the nineteenth century. If "the middle classes are always rising," as the old adage goes, their ascent had barely begun.

And yet, despite the admonitions of those who would consign the term "bourgeoisie" to the dustbin of history, historians continue to use it, as did early modern individuals themselves. But the sets of meaning that this term conveys are imprecise. Just as the boundaries between the bourgeoisie and other social classes are vague, the definition of "bourgeoisie" is equally so. Depending on context and assumptions, the historian conjures up sometimes radically different images when using the term. Definitions of "bourgeoisie" generally fall into one of four categories: legal, economic, political, and cultural.

LEGAL DEFINITION

The legal definition of bourgeoisie is both the most precise (although it varied from place to place) and the most restrictive. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, burgenses was the term applied to the inhabitants of any seigneurial territory that was granted a written coutume or charter. This charter granted privileges to the inhabitants of that territory, but the specific privileges varied from place to place, and indeed, from country to country. Sometimes those privileges were quite narrow; for example, individuals enjoying the title "Bourgeois de Bordeaux" were allowed to bring their wine into the city free of duty and had the monopoly of retail sale within the city limits. Because the privileges associated with the legal title "bourgeois" could be quite specific and quite lucrative, it was not uncommon for nobles to seek the status of "bourgeois." In general usage, however, the term "bourgeois," from medieval times through the age of the French Revolution, referred to the non-noble inhabitants of towns, citizens who enjoyed the privileges associated with living in a particular place.

ECONOMIC POSITION

The economic definition, which emphasizes the economic activity and financial standing of the bourgeoisie, is both more contentious and more compelling. It denotes the bourgeoisie as the capitalist class, the social group that emerged with towns and trade. A market-centered focus and control of commerce and capital made the bourgeoisie a potent rival to the aristocracy in a number of European countries, most notably England and the Dutch Netherlands. In the German states, the small to midsized towns, especially the trading cities on the coast, were also dominated by the merchant, craftsman, and financier. It was the rising power of the capitalist that foreshadowed the end to a European political and economic system governed by aristocrats barred from trade by the threat of dérogation loss of noble title. The bourgeoisie pioneered the commercial capitalism of the early modern era in the same way that it would spearhead the industrial revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

But not all "bourgeois" individuals were involved in trade and manufacture. The term encompasses lawyers, doctors, and non-noble officials, sometimes counted on the fringes of, or even at the center of, the elite. It also includes the so-called bourgeois vivant noblement, the "bourgeois living nobly" from the proceeds of investments and no longer required to labor for an income. While status in the early modern era was not invariably linked to wealth, wealth could go far in blurring the lines between middle class and elite, at least for those who were involved in the professions and not directly connected to the less noble function of trade. In many countriesmost notably France and Spaintrade was considered a dishonorable profession, one that any person of fortune would try to leave behind as quickly as possible. It is this desire on the part of the bourgeoisie to move out of tradethe dynamic sector of the economyand to invest in the more respectable lifestyle of land- or office-holding that calls into question Marx's vision of the rising capitalist bourgeoisie, challenging the aristocracy for economic, political, and cultural supremacy. Some historians have blamed the status-seeking French bourgeoisie for the stagnant nature of the French economy in the eighteenth century as compared to the rapidly industrializing British economy where the middle classes were less eager to disinvest from the productive sectors of the economy.

POLITICAL INFLUENCE

Still, the economic clout of the bourgeoisie as individuals and as a group could go far in conferring political power along with social status. Economic resources allowed bourgeois individuals to obtain professional expertise for their sons through education, as well as to purchase land from the weakened aristocracy. This phenomenon was particularly pronounced in England at the close of the Wars of the Roses (14551471), which had wiped out many of the most powerful baronial families, but it was repeated in other regions as well. The wealthy bourgeoisie, the nouveaux riches, embedded in business and administrative circles, moved into the positions of economic and political influence once held by the aristocracy and eventually supplanted them as the new aristocracy. This regeneration of the old elite with social climbers from the bourgeoisie is a common theme in early modern history. The aristocratic diarist Saint-Simon railed at the tendency of Louis XIV of France (ruled 16431715) to choose bourgeois individuals, vile men "raised from the dust," as his ministers at the expense of his traditional advisors, the nobility. Within a few generations, these "vile men" would hold sway as prestigious members of the court. A similar process took place in the Prussian bureaucracy under Frederick William I (ruled 17131740).

This would suggest a tight nexus between the rise of absolutism and the role of the bourgeoisie in early modern states. Kings bent on increasing their authority would turn to members of the bourgeoisie to serve the state and carry out the king's will at the expense of the old feudal nobility, whose wealth and regional power bases made it a constant threat to central authority. Affluent commoners, ready for the peace, rationality, and business benefits a centralizing monarch could introduce into the operations of government, eagerly supported the king against the rapacious nobility, and their educated sons entered into royal service. Recent scholarship that indicates more mutual dependence between monarchs and their nobility throws this line of analysis into question, but certainly the perception of an aggressive bourgeoisie usurping aristocratic privileges and rights was a powerful one, as the writings of Saint-Simon indicate.

But another interpretation of the political role of the early modern bourgeoisie also undermines the notion of complicity between king and merchant. The traditional social interpretation of both the English Civil War of the 1640s and the French Revolution of 1789 painted a bourgeoisie confident in its commercial importance, seeking political power commensurate with its economic power. Jürgen Habermas cites the creation of a "bourgeois public sphere" in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in which a nascent public opinion called into question the monopoly of state and clergy over political discussion. This desire for a political voice brought the bourgeoisie into conflict with aristocracy and crown, both jealous and unwilling to sacrifice political control. Accordingly, a powerful, independent, and discontented bourgeoisie was essential in bringing about revolution or parliamentary democracy or both in countries like France and England; and the absence or weakness of that same class (as in Prussia or Russia) was responsible for the prolongation of absolutist dictatorship. In the words of Barrington Moore, Jr., "No bourgeois, no democracy." The growing political awareness of the eighteenth-century bourgeoisie and the intense political partisanship linked to the effects of the French Revolution throughout Europe played a key role in shaping middle-class consciousness.

CULTURAL INTERPRETATIONS

But bourgeois identity also had important cultural roots that went beyond political activism, including a belief in property, virtue, and talent as the bases for social advancement, and attachment to religious values, frugality, a work ethic, public service, and especially material comfort. The bourgeoisie is also associated with an emphasis on the conjugal family and sentimental familial relations, in contrast to the focus on lineage associated with the aristocracy. This sociocultural interpretation of the bourgeoisie, with its focus on values, attitudes, and rules of conduct, has dominated historical scholarship in recent years. This consciousness of difference, of cultural and moral superiority to the idle aristocracy and the lower-class masses, had appeared among the middle classes by the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, even if a clear-cut notion of class solidarity did not yet exist.

Still, "bourgeois values" were never uncontested, even in the nineteenth century, often heralded as the golden age of the western European bourgeoisie when its ideology triumphed across class lines. Aristocrats were notoriously contemptuous of the bourgeois values of thrift, acquisitiveness, and morality. They ridiculed the lack of culture and refinement, the crudeness, the avariciousness, the "shopkeeper mentality" of the bourgeoisie. They saved their sharpest barbs for the upwardly mobile, the individual who was trying to buy his way up the social ladder, but whose lack of blood and breeding would forever mark him as bourgeois. Molière's Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (1671) underlines aristocratic disdain for the wealthy parvenu. And the lower classes, who might have looked to emulate certain characteristics of their bourgeois betters, saw them as calculating, exploitative, and cruel.

Those who give weight to the sociocultural interpretation of the bourgeoisie often underline gender relations within this social group. The ideology of domesticity, which emerged by the eighteenth century, emphasized the importance of harmonious familial relations, a moral private life, prescribed gender roles, and the celebration of the home as a haven from the rational, but heartless, world of the market. The consolidation of bourgeois class status was marked by the movement of women out of family businesses and into the home. Women were central to maintaining the standing of bourgeois families, in creating a moral center for the family and a suitable home with the necessary material comforts.

CONTRADICTIONS IN THE IMAGE OF THE EARLY MODERN BOURGEOISIE

The early modern bourgeoisie emerge as a contradictory group. They are the dynamic protocapitalists, trading and running manufacturing enterprises, working as lawyers and doctors in the liberal professions, running town and state as government officials; they are the status-conscious upwardly mobile, looking only to accumulate enough wealth to invest in land and venal offices and to withdraw from productive activity. They are toadies of absolute monarchs, imposing centralized governments throughout Europe; they are bold political actors, demanding an end to monarchical despotism and a role in the political process. They are a group that values thrift, order, religious principles, industriousness, gender-appropriate behavior, and material comforts; they are a small-minded, petty, and greedy group whose base roots can never be camouflaged, even if their wealth propels them into a higher social category. These contradictory images cannot be resolved, but contradictions are normal within a group as large and as loosely defined as the early modern bourgeoisie.

Despite the self-confidence and belief in the values of hard work and honesty that were part of bourgeois identity, anxiety also permeated the self-image of the early modern bourgeoisie. The status of these individuals was hard-won and was not undergirded by the security of noble title. While we focus on the success stories, downward mobility was at least as common a phenomenon as upward mobility. A merchant could lose his fortune; a lawyer could lose his clients; an official could face dismissal by his ruler. No social safety net existed to protect him. Work, frugality, and reputation were all that stood between the bourgeois and the downward slide to social oblivion. That anxiety may explain his attachment to the conservative values we consider "bourgeois," often long after he had left the middle classes behind.

See also Ancien Régime ; Aristocracy ; Capitalism ; Cities and Urban Life ; Class, Status, and Order ; Law: Lawyers ; Mobility, Social.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Adams, Christine. A Taste for Comfort and Status: A Bourgeois Family in Eighteenth-Century France. University Park, Pa., 2000.

Barber, Bernard, and Elinor G. Barber, eds. European Social Class: Stability and Change. New York, 1965.

Barber, Elinor G. The Bourgeoisie in Eighteenth-Century France. Princeton, 1955.

Braudel, Fernand. Civilization and Capitalism, 15th18th Century. 3 vols. Translated by Siân Reynolds. New York, 19821984.

Davidoff, Leonore, and Catherine Hall. Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 17801850. Rev. ed. London and New York, 2002.

Earle, Peter. The Making of the English Middle Class: Business, Society and Family Life in London, 16601730. Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1989.

Garrioch, David. The Formation of the Parisian Bourgeoisie, 16901830. Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1996.

Habermas, Jürgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Translated by Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence. Cambridge, Mass., 1989.

Hunt, Margaret R. The Middling Sort: Commerce, Gender, and the Family in England, 16801780. Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1996.

Huppert, George. Les Bourgeois Gentilshommes: An Essay on the Definition of Elites in Renaissance France. Chicago, 1977.

Jones, Colin. "Bourgeois Revolution Revivified: 1789 and Social Change." In Rewriting the French Revolution, edited by Colin Lucas, pp. 69118. Oxford, 1991.

Lucas, Colin. "Nobles, Bourgeois, and the Origins of the French Revolution." Past and Present 60 (August 1973): 84126.

Maza, Sarah. "Luxury, Morality, and Social Change: Why There Was No Middle-Class Consciousness in Prerevolutionary France." Journal of Modern History 69 (June 1997): 199229.

Moore, Barrington, Jr. Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World. Boston, 1966.

Sperber, Jonathan. "Bürger, Bürgertum, Bürgerlichkeit, Bürgerliche Gesellschaft: Studies of the German (Upper) Middle Class and Its Sociocultural World." Journal of Modern History 69 (June 1997): 271297.

Christine Adams

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ADAMS, CHRISTINE. "Bourgeoisie." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

ADAMS, CHRISTINE. "Bourgeoisie." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (July 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404900131.html

ADAMS, CHRISTINE. "Bourgeoisie." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. 2004. Retrieved July 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404900131.html

Bourgeoisie

Bourgeoisie

BIBLIOGRAPHY

In classical Marxian theory, bourgeoisie refers to the ruling class of capitalist society. Superseding the feudal aristocracy, its origins have been traced to a relatively early stage in capitalist development, when it was defined by ownership of the means of production. Since the 1800s the functions of management and ownership have become separated, however. As this has occurred, the explanatory value of the term bourgeoisie has become attenuated, particularly in discussions of advanced or late capitalism in the era of finance.

In French, bourgeoisie originally referred to the society of free men in towns, implying a citizen subject to civil law. The German political philosopher Karl Marx (18181882) and his collaborator, the German socialist Friedrich (also spelled Frederick) Engels (18201895), understood the bourgeoisie to have emerged from the class of chartered burghers in medieval towns, and in their works they trace the development of this class through several stages, from relative oppression under the feudal nobility, to militarized self-governing associations, to independent republics and taxable estates. They also linked the rise of this class to the simplification of class antagonism into a fundamentally binary opposition between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Marx never described the actual composition of the bourgeoisie as completely as he described the proletariat, and often the term appears to be interchangeable with capitalist.

The factors facilitating the rise of the bourgeoisie were both economic and geopolitical, and these two were related. In Marxs analysis, the drive to accumulation inherent in capitalism must be understood in terms of two kinds of capital, including constant capital (the value of the means of production) and variable capital (the value of labor power). Any expansion in total capital requires a growth in variable capital, which is generally achieved through the enhancement of technological means enabling the increased productivity of labor. A contradiction lies at the heart of this relation, however, for the variable portion of the capital grows more slowly than does the constant portion. This is overcome, says Marx, by increasing the scale of production; the larger the enterprise, the more capacity for accumulation it will have.

The process is, nonetheless, not linear. To begin with, the drive to accumulation generates competition among different capitalists. The result is a complex dialectic between accumulation and concentration, as well as centralization. In this environment, large-scale capital is not only advantaged in relation to smaller capital, because it can control more labor, but it grows at the expense of smaller capital. Such centralization is made possible by the credit system. Moreover, as the economist Rudolf Hilferding has argued, it is the merging of banking and industrial capital that permits and actualizes this centralizating dynamicthough not without countervailing pressures.

Through the credit system, the idle money that accumulates in the course of production is gathered together and made available for investment in production. Time is of the essence here, for the period during which money is not invested in production is, from the perspective of capital, lost. What the banks do, then, is permit enterprises to keep their own money in production, while still being able to draw on it for enhancement or expansion when opportunity arises. When assisted by banking institutions, the corporations no longer have to keep their money in reserve for such opportunities. There is, then, a phantomatic extension of the corporation through credit.

At the same time, other institutions, such as the stock market, permit the creation of joint-stock companies in which collectivities rather than individuals come to function as owners. This special institution, as Hilferding termed it, provides a market for titles to interest, or fictitious capital (1981, pp. 107180). Money is transformed into productive capital through the stock market because the shareholders only expect a return on the yield of the company, and their sale of title does not lead to a withdrawal of money from the corporations productive machinery.

In this sense, the shareholder is not an owner of the means of production. He is, rather, representative of a new kind of capitalist, a money capitalist, defined by Hilferding as one liberated from the status of industrial entrepreneur. Like the manager, his actions serve the interests of the company and hence of corporate capital, but only in an extremely mediated fashion. Accordingly, many thinkers, most notably Nicos Poulantzas, argue for a reconceptualization of the bourgeoisie as a class defined not by ownership of the means of production but by the function of economic control. Others have disputed this and have preferred to see managers as special kinds of wage laborers.

With the rise of the stock market, and speculation more generally, the creation of value appears to become increasingly separated from the question of production. Initially, this market sought to attract large-scale capital, accumulated by members of a relatively conventional bourgeoisie. Other institutions, such as mutual funds, have extended this process however and, consequently, helped to disseminate the capitalist ideal even among those who are merely wage laborers. They represent a profound cultural transformation and may perhaps help explain the subversion of class consciousness in social milieus defined by financialization. Nonetheless, it is important to understand that industrial capital continues to play a crucial rule even in financialized contexts, and the vast majority of the worlds labor remains engaged within it, even though a disproportionate amount of value is produced in and by financial capital.

The forces that would ultimately lead to the political and social transformation of capitalism were, Hilferding thought, internal to capitalism itself. Other, liberal theorists agreed, though for different reasons. Adolf Berle, for example, saw the concentration and centralization of capital in the huge corporations of the United States in the mid-twentieth century as a direct product of joint stock organization. But while relying upon state regulation, which, for example, provides tax incentives for philanthropic giving, Berle argued that the new corporations themselves assumed a quasi-political role. He argued further that the greatest incentive to corporate growth and rationalization is the threat of competition from state enterprises. Corporate investment in local infrastructural development and education as well as international diplomacy carried out by corporate representatives constitutes, for Berle, the hallmark of a specifically American form of corporatist capitalism whose defining attribute is its antipathy to statism.

Berles conception of what might be termed, in an idiom coined by the French philosopher Michel Foucault, corporate governmentality may be contrasted to Marxs original conception of the relationship between bourgeois political and economic form. Marx had argued that the bourgeoisie assumed economic predominance partly through its development of a political form capable of representing its interests, namely bourgeois democracy. Although a national entity, the bourgeois democratic state was nonetheless made possible only by the reordering of local economies in colonial territoriesto produce markets for European goods and to permit the extraction of natural resources for processing in metropolitan centers or, later, to serve as export processing zones. Hilferding went so far as to argue that the inhibiting influences of cartelization and protectionism within European states could only be overcome by outward expansion, and hence that the development of European capital led inevitably to imperialism, a thesis shared in different ways by both the Russian Communist thinkers Nikolay Bukharin (18881938) and Vladimir Lenin (18701924).

Toward the end of the twentieth century, economic theorists began to observe a rupture in the relationship between nation-states and corporate capital, and a super-session of the bourgeois nation-state by regional trade bodies and economic consortia (such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, the European Union, and the G8) that, while backed by the governmental authority of nation-states, attempt to ensure that domestic protectionism, which might have been deployed by national capital, does not inhibit the expansion of capital, per se. As Hilferding anticipated, financial institutions have assumed an increasingly dominant role in such contexts, and access to credit has become a significant index of economic power for both corporations and individual persons. The development of a sphere of value-creation relatively unmoored from production, through currency trading, real estate speculation, and derivatives trading, suggests that the old bourgeoisie has not only been liberated from the function of industrial entrepreneur but that the money capitalist has become the new bearer of capitals own self-interest.

SEE ALSO Capitalism; European Union; G8 Countries; Globalization, Social and Economic Aspects of; Marx, Karl; Marxism; North American Free Trade Agreement; Poulantzas, Nicos

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Berle, Adolf. 1932. The Modern Corporation and Private Property. New York: Commerce Clearing House.

Berle, Adolf. 1954. The Twentieth-Century Capitalist Revolution. New York: Harcourt Brace.

Hilferding, Rudolf. 1981. Finance Capital: A Study of the Latest Phase of Capitalist Development. Trans. Morris Watnick and Sam Gordon. Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Mandel, Ernest. 1978. Late Capitalism. Trans. Joris de Bres. New York: Verso.

Marx, Karl. 1978. The Class Struggles in France, 18481850. In Karl Marx, Frederick Engels: Collected Works, Vol. 10, 45145. New York: International Publishers. (Orig. pub. 1850).

Marx, Karl. 1992. Capital. Vols. 1 and 3. Ed. and intro. C. J. Arthur. London: Lawrence and Wishart. (Orig. pub. 1867, 1885, 1894).

Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels. 1998. The Communist Manifesto. New York: Verso. (Orig. pub. 1848).

Poulantzas, Nicos. 1978. Classes in Contemporary Capitalism. Trans. David Fernbach. New York: Verso.

Rosalind C. Morris

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bourgeoisie

bourgeoisie Originally a sixteenth-century French term referring to the body of urban freemen, which gradually became interchangeable with the term capitalist class, especially amongst Marxists. Current usage refers to the owners of the means of production in capitalist societies—although, because of the decomposition of capital, the term now has doctrinaire connotations and appears slightly dated.

Among non-Marxists, the applicability of the term in more advanced capitalist countries has been regularly questioned, especially since the 1930s. For example, Adolf A. Berle and Gardiner C. Means (The Modern Corporation and Private Property, 1932) argued that because of the separation between ownership and control which became apparent in larger American corporations during the 1930s, economic power was beginning to pass from the owner-entrepreneurs (capitalists) to the managers. Similar and again highly influential arguments appeared in the 1950s (see, for example, Daniel Bell's article on the decline of family capitalism which is reprinted in his The End of Ideology, 1960), and again in the 1960s, when in his book The New Industrial State (1967) John Kenneth Galbraith coined the term ‘technostructure’ to refer to the institutional rather than personal nature of power in modern economies. According to Galbraith, the rise of the modern corporation has replaced the entrepreneur, as an identifiable individual and as a directing force in the enterprise, by a collective ‘guiding intelligence’ embracing all those functionaries located between the levels of senior management and junior staff (the technocracy), who contribute to group decision-making for and on behalf of the organization which they form.

More recently, this change in analytical focus has gained still greater momentum with the development of the subdiscipline of business history, and in particular the appearance of Alfred D. Chandler's studies of organizational change in large American companies (see, for example, his The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business, 1977
). The summation of this whole line of argument probably came with the publication of Bell's The Coming of Post-Industrial Society (1973), with its claim that the new centrality of knowledge in the production process had changed not only the distribution of economic power, but also its very nature.

Concerning the issue of ownership more specifically, scholars (and of course some politicians) have claimed that the ever-wider dispersion of shares and the accompanying increase in the proportion of shares owned by pension funds and other financial intermediaries, have both transformed and made more democratic the structure of ownership in advanced capitalist societies (see, for example, P. F. Drucker 's The Unseen Revolution, 1976
).

The response of Marxists, and those that agree with them on this issue, has been twofold. On the one hand, it has been argued that empirical studies demonstrate that the powers of individual owners have not declined much, and certainly not as radically as has been claimed. On the contrary, according to these researchers, the more widespread share ownership only means that it is now often possible to have a very significant impact on the manner in which the still very considerable powers of boards of directors are exercised (for example with regard to investment decisions), whilst owning only a single-figure percentage of the shares. Moreover, as has been argued more recently by those interested in ownership networks, because of the power that comes with the ownership of relatively small parcels of shares, and especially if these shares are in large, market-dominating companies, it is possible that their owners may come to exercise power far beyond the confines of their base company, either through that company's holdings, or as owners on their own account. (See, for example, the article by B. Mintz and and M. Schwartz in S. Zukin and and P. DiMaggio ( eds.) , Structures of Capital, 1990
, or J. Scott's Who Rules Britain?, 1990.)

The second thrust of the Marxist response to arguments about ownership and control has been more theoretical, and comprises a claim that the issue of personal versus institutional ownership only presents problems because of a residual humanism in much Marxist thinking, a tendency which requires one to give theoretical priority to the identification of the concrete bearers of property relations (that is, specific individuals), rather than (following Marx's sixth thesis on Feuerbach) to the identification of the social relations of possession, control, and title that constitute these bearers themselves. If the latter are given theoretical priority, then because the bearers so constituted may be either humans or institutions one may talk of the existence of something called a capitalist class, if not necessarily of a clearly defined body of people recognizable as a bourgeoisie, regardless of the concrete nature of, or relations between, its bearers (see, for example, A. Woodiwiss , Social Theory after Postmodernism, 1990
). See also MANAGERIAL REVOLUTION; MIDDLE CLASS.

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Léon Bourgeois

Léon Bourgeois

The French statesman Léon Bourgeois (1851-1925) was one of the earliest proponents of the League of Nations and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1920.

Léon Bourgeois was born on May 29, 1851, in Paris. He studied law in Paris and entered the civil service in 1876. By 1887 he was prefect of police for the department of the Seine.

Bourgeois's political career began in 1888, when he represented the Marne Department in the Chamber of Deputies. He established a reputation as one of the young leaders of the Radicals in the Chamber. From 1888 to 1895 he urged a number of social and economic reforms and established an independent position that was not identified with the old Radical program. He served as a Cabinet minister in several governments before 1895.

Because of his emphasis on a specific and comprehensive program of reform as constituting the very essence of radicalism, Bourgeois gained support from the left and organized a government. On Nov. 1, 1895, he became premier. As a result of opposition in the conservative Senate against any plan of social reform, a constitutional struggle developed over the Senate's right to veto budgetary supply, and Bourgeois was forced to resign on April 21, 1896.

The program of Bourgeois's government centered on reforms specifically directed toward the underprivileged: a progressive income tax, the extension of pension plans and of social security, and insurance programs. Bourgeois and his program were not socialist, though this accusation was leveled against him many times. His government was unable to achieve any of its specific goals, but it did encourage the cause of reform and was the first government to be supported by the Socialists.

Bourgeois served as head of the French delegations to the First and Second Hague Conferences in 1899 and 1907, where, according to a colleague, he "expressed commonplace thoughts in a mellow voice." He was elected to the Senate in 1905. In 1916 and 1917 he was for a time minister of labor in Aristide Briand's wartime Cabinet. Bourgeois was president of the Senate from 1920 to 1923.

Bourgeois had been one of the original proponents of a league of nations. When the Paris Peace Conference took up the question in 1919, the French government designated him as the representative to the special committee whose task was the drafting of the Covenant of the League of Nations. When the League was in operation, he became the chief representative for France and served in both the Council and Assembly.

In 1923 Bourgeois gave up his position in the League because of illness. He died at his country estate near Épernay on Sept. 25, 1925.

Further Reading

Guy Chapman, The Third Republic of France (1962), includes a scholarly evaluation of Bourgeois's political influence as well as some biographical information. See also Edward Mead Earle, ed., Modern France: Problems of the Third and Fourth Republic (1951). H. Schück and others, Nobel: The Man and His Prizes (1950; 2d ed. 1962), and Mortimer Lipsky, Quest for Peace: The Story of the Nobel Award (1966), discuss Bourgeois's work for peace. □

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Bourgeois, Léon

Léon Bourgeois (lāôN´ bōōrzhwä´), 1851–1925, French statesman and social philosopher. He held cabinet posts, notably the premiership (1895–96) and was a delegate to the first and second Hague peace conferences and a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. One of the earliest proponents of the League of Nations, he headed the French delegation in the League. In 1920 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. His influential book, Solidarité (1896), advocated the use of public authority to achieve the solidarity increasingly necessary within and among nations.

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bourgeoisie

bourgeoisie (bŏŏrzhwäzē´), originally the name for the inhabitants of walled towns in medieval France; as artisans and craftsmen, the bourgeoisie occupied a socioeconomic position between the peasants and the landlords in the countryside. The term was extended to include the middle class of France and subsequently of other nations. The word bourgeois has also long been used to imply an outlook associated with materialism, narrowness, and lack of culture—these characteristics were early satirized by Molière and have continued to be a subject of literary analysis.

Origins and Rise

The bourgeoisie as a historical phenomenon did not begin to emerge until the development of medieval cities as centers for trade and commerce in Central and Western Europe, beginning in the 11th cent. The bourgeoisie, or merchants and artisans, began to organize themselves into corporations as a result of their conflict with the landed proprietors. At the end of the Middle Ages, under the early national monarchies in Western Europe, the bourgeoisie found it in their interests to support the throne against the feudal disorder of competing local authorities. In England and the Netherlands, the bourgeoisie was the driving force in uprooting feudalism in the late 16th and early 17th cent.

In the 17th and 18th cent., the bourgeoisie supported principles of constitutionality and natural right, against the claims of divine right and against the privileges held by nobles and prelates. The English, American, and French revolutions derived partly from the desire of the bourgeoisie to rid itself of feudal trammels and royal encroachments on personal liberty and on the rights of trade and property. In the 19th cent., the bourgeoisie, triumphantly propounding liberalism, gained political rights as well as religious and civil liberties. Thus modern Western society, in its political and also in its cultural aspects, owes much to bourgeois activities and philosophy.

Subsequent to the Industrial Revolution, the class greatly expanded, and differences within it became more distinct, notably between the high bourgeois (industrialists and bankers) and the petty bourgeois (tradesmen and white-collar workers). By the end of the 19th cent., the capitalists (the original bourgeois) tended to be associated with a widened upper class, while the spread of technology and technical occupations was opening the bourgeoisie to entry from below.

In Marxism

Within Karl Marx's theory of class struggle, the bourgeoisie plays a significant role. By overthrowing the feudal system it is seen as an originally progressive force that later becomes a reactionary force as it tries to prevent the ascendency of the proletariat (wage earners) in order to maintain its own position of predominance. Some writers argue that Marx's theory fails because he did not foresee the rise of a new, expanded middle class of professionals and managers, which, although they are wage earners, do not fit easily into his definition of the proletariat.

Bibliography

See H. Pirenne, Medieval Cities (1952) and Economic and Social History of Medieval Europe (1956); D. Johnson, ed., Class and Social Development (1982); P. Gay, The Bourgeois Experience (Vol. I–V, 1984–98).

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bourgeoisie

bourgeoisie (middle class) Term originally applied to artisans and craftsmen who lived in medieval French towns. Up to the late 18th century it was a propertied but relatively unprivileged class, often of urban merchants and tradesmen, who helped speed the decline of the feudal system. The 19th-century advent of capitalism led to the expansion of the bourgeoisie and its division into the high (industrialists and financiers) and petty (tradesmen, clerical workers) bourgeoisie.

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Bourgeoisie

Bourgeoisie

bourgeois collectively or as a class, the French middle class, 1707; also extended to other nationalities.

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bourgeoisie

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