Skip to main content
Select Source:

Bourgeoisie, Petty

Bourgeoisie, Petty

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The term petty bourgeoisie originally referred to the class of people involved in small-scale commercial enterprises who owned their means of production. It included merchants and traders, and, in some cases, wealthier land-owning farmers. Thus conceived, this class partakes of the structures of private property on which capitalist society is grounded, but it does not own sufficient capital to reap the benefits of large-scale industrialization and workplace rationalization. Moreover, its members are not dependent upon the sale of their own labor-power. They occasionally employ others, although, unlike capitalists, they themselves must also work, and often do so alongside their employees, including family members.

The petty bourgeoisie has been assigned a particularly significant role in Marxian historiography by virtue of Karl Marxs (18181883) claim that, during the failed revolution of 1848 in France, they transferred their allegiance from the proletariat to the bourgeoisie. In the mid-1840s, a period of famine and widespread discontent throughout Europe but especially in France, the petty bourgeoisie had fought alongside members of the urban proletariat and students to demand workers rights and liberal political reform. However, when this conflict began to assume anarchic dimensions, they joined with the bourgeoisie, the conservative peasantry, and residual feudal powers to support a counterrevolution whose outcome was the establishment of the Second Republic and a new era of European despotism.

By the late twentieth century, the term had receded from usage, and has been replaced in large measure by middle class. This has occurred at the same time that the term middle class has come to be dissociated from its original referent of the bourgeoisie. The reasons for this development, particularly in the United States, reveal much about both the nature of economic life in contemporary capitalist society and the ideology by which it is sustained. This ideology can be described as one that valorizes the middle class, that sees its expansion as the necessary condition of economic growth and democratization, and that links middle classness to upward mobility.

Significantly, this understanding rests on a slippage in the definition of the middle class from Marxs time. Friedrich Engels (18201895) had warned against this possibility in a letter to Marx in 1852. There, he distinguished the middle class as that group between the nobility, which it had superseded, and the proletariat, which would ultimately displace it. In this sense, middle class meant transitional class for Engels, rather than simply the class of small business people and professional managers now typically associated with the term.

However, the question of transition has itself become problematic in economic history. The joint stock company, which Marx believed to be a mere stage in the development and transformation of capital, now dominates capitalist enterprise, and its professional managers (as well as their support service workers) now form the core of what is sometimes referred to as the new petty bourgeoisie.

Like the more classically conceived proletariat, these individuals are also employees of capitalist enterprises. However, they do not own the means of production in the sense that enables them to alienate it, and they are somewhat contradictorily positioned as the representatives of capitalist interests. Various theorists have tried to exclude this new form of the petty bourgeoise from the categories of both the bourgeoisie and the working class, on the basis that they perform unproductive mental labor which is antithetical to the interests of the proletariat (Poulantzis 1975); that they do not own the means of production despite exercising the function of capital (Carchedi 1977); or, more generally, because older notions of property ownership no longer describe the ambiguous distribution of rights over property that define modern joint stock companies today (Olin Wright 1978). In each of these cases, the managerial classes are thought of as a problem for both theory and radical political organization. Allin Cottrell (1984) nonetheless suggests that the variability in forms of ownership, social roles, and ideological commitments that characterize the managerial classes in contemporary capitalist societies requires a new conception of class, and prohibits any predictive model identifying the new petty bourgeoisie with any particular political orientation.

The older model of the petty bourgeoisie nonetheless retains great ideological force in many neoliberal societies, where the idea of the self-employed businessperson who is free from the demand to sell his or her own labor continues to occupy a dominant position in popular representations of the middle classes. It is often associated with radical individualism, as well as the values of personal autonomy and rational decision making. Moreover, it is frequently imagined as the ideal form of immigrant assimilationand serves as a counter-image to balance other immigrant economies, including those of short term contract labor in the agricultural or energy sectors, and the feminized economies of domestic and sexual labor.

SEE ALSO Bourgeoisie; Capitalism; Class; Liberalism; Marx, Karl; Marxism; Middle Class; Neoliberalism; Welfare State

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Carchedi, G. 1977. On the Economic Identification of Social Classes. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Cottrell, Allin. 1984. Social Classes in Marxist Theory. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

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

Marx, Karl. [1852] 1951. Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, with explanatory notes. New York: International Publishers.

Olin Wright, E. 1978. Class, Crisis and the State. London: New Left Books.

Poulantzis, N. 1975. Social Classes in Contemporary Capitalism. London: New Left Books.

Rosalind C. Morris

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bourgeoisie, Petty." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bourgeoisie, Petty." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/bourgeoisie-petty

"Bourgeoisie, Petty." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved February 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/bourgeoisie-petty

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

petty bourgeoisie

pet·ty bour·geoi·sie • n. another term for petite bourgeoisie.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"petty bourgeoisie." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"petty bourgeoisie." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/petty-bourgeoisie

"petty bourgeoisie." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved February 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/petty-bourgeoisie

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

petty bourgeois

pet·ty bour·geois • n. another term for petit bourgeois.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"petty bourgeois." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"petty bourgeois." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/petty-bourgeois

"petty bourgeois." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved February 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/petty-bourgeois

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

petty bourgeoisie

petty bourgeoisie See PETITE (OR PETTY) BOURGEOISIE.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"petty bourgeoisie." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"petty bourgeoisie." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/petty-bourgeoisie

"petty bourgeoisie." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Retrieved February 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/petty-bourgeoisie

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.