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Civil Wedding (1933)

The bourgeoisie is understood to be a historically distinguishable form of socialization of the middle classes, provided that they develop similar action-guiding value orientations and ideas about social order based on special, more or less common interests and thus also influence the political stability of a country.


In the context of the political economy of Marxism , the term bourgeoisie (i.e. the property bourgeoisie ) is customary for the class that exercises power over the social means of production in the social formation of capitalism .

As a word, bourgeoisie ( citizen ) as the term for a population group comes from the middle Latin burgus , one protected (sheltered) by city walls and with special privileges, etc. a. Urban settlement with market rights in which merchants and craftsmen lived. This social grouping, however, has been subject to significant social-historical change in the course of history and has developed clearly different sub-forms. The concept of the bourgeoisie is never completely synonymous in different societies because of their different historical developments.

On the sociology of the bourgeoisie

In sociology , the bourgeoisie is separated from the nobility and clergy, as well as from peasants and workers as a social class. It often encompasses heterogeneous social groups that are either characterized by formal professional preparation ( education or training ) or by economic independence and have thus acquired certain political privileges (such as self-administration ) and opportunities to control social instruments over the course of history .

"Bourgeoisie" is the summary term for a multi-layered structured, in detail difficult to distinguish social class between the traditional upper classes ( high nobility , nobility and patriciate as well as the high clergy that often emerged from them ) and the historical lower class groups of the peasant class and the working class . It is mainly composed of the sub-layers of the bourgeoisie (notably the larger merchants ), the educated classes (notably pastors, university professors and senior officials) and the petty bourgeoisie (lower middle class, including small merchants, easy, medium and upscale Civil servants including teachers , executives and self-employed craftsmen ).

Since the industrial revolution , the bourgeoisie has mostly been assigned to the middle class, while the middle class is understood to be the professional group of manufacturers ( small and medium-sized enterprises ), who often have an above-average income and wealth and historically often emerged from the artisan class. Since the bourgeoisie consists of heterogeneous strata, the process of socialization , including the formation of a group identity , was more problematic than with more homogeneous social categories (such as the nobility or the proletariat ). (On the question of the development of a class consciousness or the “class in itself” and “class for itself” see: Das Elend der Philosophie by Karl Marx , 1847). Strictly speaking, the fact that there is a middle class in a certain society is not sufficient to be able to infer the social and cultural existence of a bourgeoisie. The prerequisite for the bourgeoisie is a sufficiently differentiated social structure of society; In addition, ideas of order must have prevailed there, tailored to his interests. B .: Economic liberalism of the propertied middle ( upper middle class and bourgeoisie ) - or enlightenment, education and freedom of personal life, art and science in the educated middle class .

Origin and change of the middle class

In the time of occidental feudalism , the bourgeoisie fought for their civil liberties to differentiate themselves from royalty , church princes , nobility and peasants. The process began at the end of the Middle Ages and continued in parts of Eastern Europe into the 19th century. The conflicting processes involved are referred to as early bourgeois revolutions and later as bourgeois revolutions . In the German cultural area, this establishment process first took place in the cities immediately outside the empire ( imperial cities ), as well as in the Hanseatic cities , based on commercial guilds (which were mostly ruled by the upper class of the commercial patriciate , which had emerged since the high Middle Ages ) and craft guilds that interconnected early on competed for power in the city council bodies . The formulated in the Age of Enlightenment and u. a. Civil rights won by the citizens in the French Revolution are now considered human rights .

A first modern definition of the legal provisions of the civil status comes from the year 1794 and can be found in the General Land Law for the Prussian States (ALR) Zweyter Theil. Eighth title. First section. From the bourgeoisie in general:

§ 1. The bourgeois class includes all the inhabitants of the state who, according to their birth, cannot be counted among the nobility or the peasant class, and have not been incorporated into any of these classes afterwards.
§ 2. A citizen in the proper sense is called someone who has taken up residence in a city and has gained citizenship there.
§ 3. Citizens of the civil class in and outside the cities who are exempted from the jurisdiction of their place of residence through their offices, dignities or special privileges are called exiles. [...]
§ 5. Inhabitants of the cities who are neither actual citizens nor excluded are called protection relatives.
§ 6. Citizens and relatives of the city are judged according to the statutes of their place of residence, while exiles are judged according to the provincial laws, and in their absence, according to the general code of law.

Citizenship was therefore a corporate right. It was acquired by birth or given to applicants who applied for it and had to meet important conditions. If they were productive and if they had wealth, they were welcome. The General Land Law refers to this definition already on three basic types of civil concept: City citizens (master craftsmen, wealthy merchants, shopkeepers, innkeepers - collectively referred to as petty bourgeois), educated citizens in the civil service (Eximierte) and economic citizen or Bourgeois (also Eximierte).

In the course of the 19th century, the term “citizen” expanded, and questions about one's position in the job were also increasingly asked. Through the process of bourgeoisisation, new layers of the bourgeoisie can be drawn into the middle class again and again (e.g. higher-level employees). The decisive factor for this is the extent to which these layers gain independence and access to social means of power (autonomy and autocephaly according to Max Weber ).

Bourgeoisie as a social and cultural phenomenon

The idea of bourgeois society was developed during the Enlightenment, but already found the first favorable development conditions in the "occidental city" (according to Max Weber). It was initially understood as a class (in the French Revolution of 1789 as the “ third estate ” that was decisive for society as a whole ), then in Marxism as a class (“bourgeoisie”), and finally as a style-defining milieu that lives on and has an insular effect in the present.

The bourgeoisie played a unique role in world history in the transformation of feudalism and absolutism in the economy and society through its ideas of democracy ( popular sovereignty ), human rights, the rule of law and liberalism . In the field of poetry and theater it emancipated itself by establishing the bourgeois tragedy as a genre. In his habilitation thesis Structural Change of the Public , published in 1962, the philosopher and sociologist Jürgen Habermas describes the bourgeoisie as a social formation that brought about a new form of the public , a new relationship between state and society and ultimately the emergence of modern mass society .

In the time of early capitalism, the bourgeoisie shaped the "bourgeois worldview", which is closely linked to the " bourgeois virtues " of performance, diligence and thrift. The bourgeois intellectuals formed to either a government or alimentierten freelance educated middle class , which could partly to formulate criticism of the prevailing bourgeois notions and ideas.

The German bourgeoisie, which has been expanding since the middle of the 18th century and which gained in prosperity and influence with the industrial revolution , became politically aware and then active in the repressive period of the Vormärz , whereby liberalism - as in neighboring countries - its interests naturally corresponded. That he initiated in 1848 revolution but then failed partly due to the disagreement of the German bourgeoisie, which is splintered into numerous political rival individual movements despite its generally liberal view toward the indented other accents to the fore in each case: from national conservatives over Klerikalkatholische , National Liberals , Liberals up towards left-wing liberals . The main driving force behind this was not primarily - as emphasized by Marxism - economic conflicting interests, but above all an intellectual habitus immanent in the educated bourgeoisie, which always strived for self-knowledge by means of self-criticism - according to today's terms "self-optimization" - which, however, at the same time always resulted in development a permanent group identity counteracted.

After the failure of the '48 revolution, the bourgeoisie largely withdrew from politics and only returned to public life in the 1860s. The resulting difference in the domestic political development of Germany and z. B. France (and the persistence of Russia - where there was hardly any educated bourgeoisie - in absolutism on the other hand) is often seen as the reason for the logic of a " German special path " - for example by Hans-Ulrich Wehler - and also seen as one of the ideological factors counted for the First World War .

The distinction between the French terms citoyen (for example: citizen , educated citizen ) and bourgeois (for example: property citizen , ruling citizen ) is significant . In contrast to the typical landlord, the educated citizen thinks not only of himself and his money, whereby an above-average income or wealth is usually assumed in these circles . In these circles, capital is understood to be the existence of knowledge , relationships and connections , which they understand to be the more original and significant capital assets than money capital.

While the communist criticism defined the bourgeoisie as the class enemy of the workers and saw the " petty bourgeoisie " fluctuate politically back and forth between the class fronts, the term bourgeoisie was given negative connotations in other contexts, such as the expressions "bourgeoisie" or "bourgeois Christianity " make clear. The same applies to the term " philistine " adopted by students and the youth movement , a dirty word from the jargon of the knight armies. In the decline of the (e.g. “Victorian” or “ Wilhelmine ”) bourgeoisie in the late 19th century, the ideal, which was spreading in part from the nobility, that women only have representative duties and at best supervise the household. There was staff for the housework . The middle-class woman had time to relieve the money-earning man of the civic educational efforts , to organize socializing in the respective social circles, and if necessary to be charitable.

With a view to social change , the view has been held since the middle of the 20th century that the bourgeoisie as an exemplary lifestyle as a whole has come to an end. In Germany in particular, social upheavals caused by the two world wars , dictatorships and currency reforms , the persecution of Jews in the Third Reich and the anti-bourgeois ideology of communism in the GDR led to repeated upheavals in social conditions, to the decline or expulsion of old and the rise of new elites , often from uneducated origins ( petty bourgeoisie , artisans , wage workers ), and finally to the emergence of new social structures, which are characterized by catchphrases such as “ leveled medium -sized society ” or “ two-thirds society ”. What emerged was a "post-bourgeois" society of employees , civil servants and other groups, which were essentially merged into a broad new middle class and, regardless of their roots in the bourgeoisie, did not differ in style from the general style of industrial society . This does not rule out that traditional bourgeois lifestyles still occur, mostly as family styles. In the political arena, conservative , Christian Democratic and liberal parties from the political center and the center-right spectrum are often referred to as “bourgeois parties” .

Globalization and digitization are leading to new social upheavals in the 21st century : According to David Goodhart , the "anywheres" are increasingly contrasting with the "somewheres" : new, digitally competent, professionally successful, socially progressive -minded (in the flowing transition liberal, left-liberal or green ) Elites, “ global citizens ” (though focused on digital trends and without the comprehensive education of the Humboldtian ideal of education ), whose field of work and communication is the whole world, rise, while those who are professionally, socially or regionally “left behind” are on the verge of decline or fears of decline are and therefore dependent on familiar surroundings, traditional ways of life and a functioning nation state with social and security services. At the same time, “the often nationally coded, highly cultural educational knowledge is radically devalued in the globally liquefied, digitally networked attention economy”, which - according to Cornelia Koppetsch - can lead to “new resentment communities” between the materially declassified and the “old-fashioned educated” who experience cultural loss.

See also

Gustav Jung's Family (1918)


Individual evidence

  1. Cf. on the milieu differences between the nobility and the bourgeoisie that still exist today: Jens Jessen , Was vom Adel remained. A bourgeois consideration , on Klampen Essay 2018, ISBN 978-3-86674-580-3
  2. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler : Deutsche Gesellschaftgeschichte, Munich, 1987–2008, Volume 4: From the beginning of the First World War to the founding of the two German states 1914–1949 , 2003, ISBN 3-406-32264-6 ; Volume 5: Federal Republic of Germany and GDR 1949–1990 , 2008, ISBN 978-3-406-52171-3 .
  3. ^ David Goodhart , The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics . C. Hurst & Co, 2017 ISBN 9781849047999
  4. Süddeutsche Zeitung July 2, 2019 , review by Gustav Seibt on Cornelia Koppetsch : The Society of Zorn. Right-wing populism in the global age , Transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2019
  5. Cornelia Koppetsch : The society of anger. Right-wing populism in the global age , Transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2019

Web links

Wiktionary: bourgeoisie  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: bourgeois  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations