The concept of bourgeoisie refers to the group made up of individuals with properties or means of production and a certain level of income, which places them within the so-called wealthy middle class.
In economic sociology, it is assumed that the fact that the bourgeoisie exists supposes that a part of society has to its credit the possession of private property, accumulated wealth and some economic relief.
The difference with the working class will reside in the fact that the bourgeois has higher economic returns. However, the concept comes from those individuals who developed their activity in the cities (or boroughs).
In that sense, in its origin the bourgeoisie based its activity on tasks such as commerce or crafts, raising clear differences with jobs developed manually in the field or with the large industries that emerged after the industrial revolution, especially.
Types of bourgeoisie
The types of bourgeoisie, according to levels of accumulated income or the social and economic activity carried out, would be the following:
- Lower bourgeoisie: Covered by middle-class individuals who develop certain jobs and have a minimum level of property and income.
- Middle bourgeoisie: It is a more extended class since it includes the area known as the middle class. It often encompasses small business owners or employers of a small number of people.
- Upper bourgeoisie: Corresponding to individuals with a large amount of wealth and who employ many others and occupy their place in social, political and economic elites.
In addition, we can distinguish:
- Enlightened Bourgeoisie: Class of the elite of Europe of the 18th century with a model of humanistic education, with a focus on science and progress. His ideas influenced the political processes of Latin America in the 19th century.
- Industrial bourgeoisie: A group of high-income individuals, with ownership of the means of production and a desire to invest in Western societies after the industrial revolution.
Ideological views of the concept of bourgeoisie
With the evolution of social and political movements and the development of socialist and communist theories or capitalism, the vision of the bourgeoisie has experienced different historical perceptions.
From the socialist point of view, originally devised by Karl Marx, the bourgeoisie is the expression of the dominant capitalist class that employs the working class and brings together the means of production in a way that is not very supportive of the working class. In this environment, the industrial bourgeoisie as a concept, historically differentiated from the bourgeoisie in general, acquires special importance. Thus, the bourgeoisie in origin was not necessarily wealthy, but it was wealthy. Meanwhile, the industrial bourgeoisie did have wealth and even legal privileges as characteristics.
Alternatively, an approach closer to capitalism understands the bourgeoisie as an economic engine of every country, which creates jobs and, therefore, a higher level of economic and social well-being.
Origin and history of the bourgeoisie
The origin of the bourgeoisie was in the Middle Ages, when a group of people who carried out trades such as merchant or craftsman settled in the cities.
By not living in the countryside, these individuals were not subject to any feudal lord, that is, they were not serfs. But they did not belong to the nobility either.
As time went by, commercial activity and the accumulation of wealth became more relevant. However, it was not until the 18th century that the Old Regime was challenged, and it was through bourgeois revolutions that the wealthy middle class sought to change the status quo.
The bourgeoisie then became a term used to refer to a wealthy elite that, through the revolutions that occurred since the 18th century, gained -in part- greater prominence in politics because, until then, the nobility usually exercised effective power ( There are exceptions such as the Medici in Italy). This, despite the fact that many families and wealthy people had already managed to influence the rulers.
Characteristics of the bourgeoisie
The characteristics of the bourgeoisie are as follows:
- It arose, as we have already mentioned, in the Middle Ages.
- They do not belong to the nobility, but neither to the working class.
- It could be equated to what is known today as the middle class.
- Although they developed different types of activities, they were mainly linked to commerce.
- They had an accumulation of capital that allowed them not to suffer needs.
- They played an important role in the liberal revolutions of the 18th century, such as the French Revolution. For this reason, the latter is classified as a bourgeois revolution.