Educated middle class

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"A Song Without Words" (painting by George Hamilton Barrable around 1888 - for "daughters from a higher house", a musical education was considered desirable in the 19th century , the picture captures the aesthetics and subliminal eroticism of the moment, which also served to bring about a proper marriage )

As educated middle class or the educated classes an influential is social class called (forming layer, now also educated elite ), the humanist education , literature , science and involvement in state and community is very important and maintains considered. The European educated bourgeoisie emerged in the middle of the 18th century, especially among Protestant pastors, professors , doctors , wealthy merchants and senior officials .


The social relevance of the educated bourgeoisie as the elite of interpreting cultural phenomena was largely based on its dominant position in universities and schools as well as in the production and dissemination of public opinions (through press and literature ). In the process, the educated bourgeoisie also built up educational and language barriers that made it an elitist class, to which uneducated people found it difficult to gain access. Pierre Bourdieu's concept of cultural capital, which was developed in the 20th century , comes from this description of the milieu . On the other hand, educated citizens often took responsibility for the community, its upbringing and culture. The educated bourgeoisie is only one of many varieties of the bourgeoisie that overlaps with others, so that it cannot be viewed in isolation (e.g. from professional, economic or political aspects).


Bode Museum on Museum Island , which opened in Berlin in 1905 , was significantly influenced by the art historian Wilhelm von Bode

A decisive characteristic of the educated middle class, also in their own perception, is the way they deal with culture . Traditionally, education was based on specific canons that were shaped and received by the educated middle class. These range from literature to music (house music, church music, orchestral music, opera) and theater to later developments such as film. Above all, social exchange in theaters, opera houses or museums in the big cities became the defining moment of the milieu. In addition to political leaders, it was above all the educated bourgeoisie who campaigned for the construction of cultural buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries and expanded the often temple-like structures into expanded public salons for social and political life, such as the Museum Island in Berlin (1830 ), the Vienna State Opera (1869) or the Städelsche Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt am Main (1833).


18th century

In Germany, the educated bourgeoisie developed from its early beginnings (since the Reformation , especially in the Protestant rectory , which supplemented and replaced the monasteries as the oldest educational centers and finally became the “hotbed of poets and thinkers ”) initially around the professors' professional groups (including most of them Universities broke away from the Catholic Church) and the increasing number of state officials . In the early educated classes were academic and liberal professions particularly well represented, in addition to the pastors and professors the teachers , pharmacists , doctors , lawyers , judges , merchants , musicians , artists , engineers and senior officials.

The reason for the development of a broader social class in the 18th century, especially from the professional civil service, was the late absolutist administrative state, which required a large number of well-trained civil servants for its reform activities, which the old system of the pre-modern class order was unable to produce. As part of this policy, the state set up educational institutions , the number of which was considerable, especially in the larger German states in relation to the rest of Europe. The respective states secured the loyalty of the emerging civil service by granting tax privileges , exemption from military service and preferential treatment in court. In this way a new non-class bourgeois stratum emerged, which was defined neither politically nor economically, but administratively and culturally, and thus made a decisive contribution to the development of an all-German national idea. An example of such an educated patriciate civil servant are the " Pretty Families " from Kurhannover .

19th century

Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835)

Although universities in Europe had existed since the early Middle Ages (including in Bologna , Oxford , Paris or Heidelberg ), the social importance of the academy grew in the course of industrialization, when the recourse to scientifically well-instructed for economic growth and the new organization of the western state structure Citizens became essential. From the 19th century onwards, new university locations emerged all over Europe, such as today's Humboldt University in Berlin in 1810, as well as technically specialized universities (such as the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich ). Members of educated middle class families often received privileged access to high schools and universities.

The great intellectual history of the German Classical and Romantic periods , the products of which also became compulsory educational content, culminated in the phrase of the "people of poets and thinkers ". The most important intellectual product - and at the same time the actual program - of the educated bourgeoisie was created by Wilhelm von Humboldt at the beginning of the 19th century with his Humboldtian ideal of education . This developed around the two central concepts of the bourgeois enlightenment : the concept of the autonomous individual and the concept of cosmopolitanism . The university should be a place where autonomous individuals and “global citizens” are produced or produce themselves. University education should not be vocational, but should be independent of economic interests. The Humboldtian educational ideal thus pointed beyond the actual educated middle class to a “human society of equals”, which ran counter to the delimitation efforts of some educated citizens. From an economically liberal point of view, however, the view was (and is) taken that people should concentrate on their personal work in order to prevent them from neglecting their work due to too wide a range of opportunities.

The educated bourgeoisie of the 19th century was characterized by the following characteristics , according to the German Germanist Klaus Vondung :

  • academic education
  • In-group behavior ”, brought about by similar educational paths; It was through this behavior that the class distinguished itself from other social subgroups
  • high self-recruitment
  • social prestige is more important than economic prosperity
  • predominantly Protestant denomination
  • is considered a "cultural elite "
  • occupies professions that pass on the bourgeois regulatory drafts and thus make them socially dominant

According to Arnold Zweig , the new social class of the educated bourgeoisie was characterized as follows from the 18th century onwards: "Educated by the German classics, who tried to realize the new unity of the nation with books, thoughts, works of art and world views in a liberal and generous way." With the beginning of industrialization in Germany (from the middle of the 19th century), the economic bourgeoisie (the " bourgeoisie ") gained influence - only partly emerging from the bourgeoisie or even the educated bourgeoisie , but mainly founded by successful craftsmen . The pursuit of education and the pursuit of economic and social success did not depend on one another, but they could complement and promote one another.

The development of the German bourgeoisie took a later course than in the neighboring states of England and France - the bourgeoisie in these countries had already gained participation in economic and, subsequently, political power: starting in the late Middle Ages with the increasingly powerful English House of Commons , in which ultimately faced the two parties of the Whigs and Tories , the former predominantly representing the urban, bourgeois and commercial elites (as well as religious minorities) and the latter representing the rural, conservative (and Anglican) gentry . In France, the rise of the bourgeoisie was slowed for a long time by the Huguenot Wars and the subsequent absolutism , but in the 18th century, since the Régence , merchants , private bankers and industrialists also set the tone there and came as a result of the French Revolution of 1789 (and finally under the " Citizen King ") to the levers of political power.

This repeated at national level what had been happening in many European city-states (the commercial republics) since the late Middle Ages , e. B. the imperial cities , Hanseatic cities , the Republic of Venice , the Republic of Genoa , Florence , the Republic of the United Netherlands or in the Swiss city cantons (which were ruled by the patriciate of the old Confederation , i.e. in Basel , Bern , Geneva or Zurich ) to the emergence of civil Commercial patriciate had led. These patricians, however, had long since become aristocratic, which is why one speaks of "urban aristocracies" at the head of so-called " aristocratic republics ". From the 17th century, especially in the Hanseatic cities, a large bourgeoisie had emerged, which is sometimes also referred to as the " bourgeois nobility ". Unlike the older patricians, it no longer primarily pursued the nobility by acquiring rural manors, but instead emphasized civic values ​​such as the ideal of achievement (commercial or academic) and a certain decency in the display of wealth. These older bourgeois ruling classes were often replaced by new economic elites in their local spheres of activity since the end of the 18th century in the course of revolutions and industrialization.

The German civil servants and educated middle class emerged to a considerable extent as early as the 18th century, but only began to become politically conscious and then politically active in the course of the first half of the 19th century, during the repressive period of the Vormärz , whereby liberalism - as in neighboring countries - naturally corresponded to his interests. 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 one of the ideological factors for counted 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. In France there is no parallel to the concept of the educated bourgeoisie , where a distinction is mostly made between the bourgeoisie and intellectuals , with overlaps being common.

Under the aegis of the educated bourgeoisie, the feature sections of the major German-language newspapers took on an important role and thus placed the discussion of culture on the same level as that of politics or economics. The feature section of the former Neue Freie Presse in Vienna achieved particular renown , which, through the collaboration of Theodor Herzl , Hugo von Hofmannsthal , Felix Salten , Alice Schalk , Arthur Schnitzler , Bertha von Suttner and Stefan Zweig, expanded the handling of culture to this day raised to the pillar of a respected media coverage.

20th century

The National Theater in Weimar , which was redesigned in 1906, became an important political stage for the
young republic in the interwar period and was once again an attempt to put cultural creation at the forefront of political dealings

In the 20th century, especially in Germany, 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 relegation or expulsion old and the rise of new elites , often from uneducated origins ( petty bourgeoisie , craftsmen , wage workers ), and finally the emergence of new social structures, which are characterized by catchphrases such as “ leveled medium -sized society ” or “ two-thirds society ”, which are essentially in a broad new middle class had merged. As modern relics of the educated bourgeoisie, for example, members of the Mann family of writers or the scientist, artist and politician dynasties Weizsäcker , Dohnányi and Albrecht are mentioned. In his memoir “Jugend in Berlin, 1933–1943”, Nicolaus Sombart describes how he grew up in a prominent, educated middle-class family during the Nazi era . In the novel Der Turm the writer Uwe Tellkamp addresses the survival of educated citizens in the GDR through “ inner emigration ”.

The broad education, by definition, has always included Bible study , ancient language , historical , art-historical and literary knowledge, namely the canon of literature , and music education ( music , art , ballroom dancing ) has always been part of it. Law , medicine and commercial transactions played an important role in professional training . Since the 19th century, natural science subjects such as mathematics , physics , chemistry and biology have gained in importance for the world of work, in the 20th century numerous new subjects such as economics , information science and computer science have been added. Since the middle of the 20th century , professional life, especially in the higher wage areas, has specialized in ever more complex expertise (keyword " specialist idiot "), so that the compulsory acquisition of an educational canon became obsolete even for ambitious climbers because there was neither the need nor the opportunity to do so was like the financially secure educated citizen once had. Even the grammar school today emphasizes the differentiation into subject profiles. The ideal (or the necessity) of economically exploitable specialization has finally supplanted the Humboldtian ideal of education.

Sometimes the term “educated citizen” was used in a derogatory sense, less on the part of the victorious economic liberalism than on the part of the 1968 movement and a sociology influenced by it , which equated educated citizens with economic elites in its class struggle . But the derogatory speech only came up

“When there was nothing left to be seen of a bourgeoisie in the sense of a cultural character, let alone of compulsory education . The disappearance of the one as well as the other was the prerequisite for merging the two into an epitome of the dead. Its polemical sense and political utility consisted in being able to celebrate loss as progress and one's own narrow-mindedness as overcoming conceit ”. ( Jens Jessen )

Even if the educated bourgeoisie has perished as a social class , individual late successors of the classic “educated citizen” grow back again and again, who mostly no longer have his broadly diversified “classic” education, but in a more or less autodidactic way - what they get from differs from their “born” predecessors - through curiosity, diligence and dealing with like-minded people, they acquire all kinds of knowledge that goes beyond their specialist areas. Professionally successful specialists in particular occasionally strive to broaden their horizons, be it out of interest in certain areas of knowledge or in order to gain additional prestige . In doing so, they can also form socially influential circles and groups in which they exchange ideas or pursue certain projects. Civic engagement , especially in the cultural field, and patronage remain dependent on such “educated” citizens.

21st century

Globalization and digitization are now leading to new social upheavals: According to David Goodhart , the “anywheres” are increasingly contrasting with the “somewheres” : new, digitally competent, professionally successful, socially and politically progressive -minded people (often in the fluid transition between liberal , left-liberal or green settled), new types of "world citizens" (however, focused on digital trends and without the comprehensive education of the "world citizen" in the sense of the Humboldtian educational ideal ), whose field of work and communication is the whole world, rose, while professionally, socially or regionally “left behind” “Are in the process of decline or fearful of decline and are therefore dependent on familiar surroundings, traditional ways of life and a functioning nation state with social and security benefits. In the digitized world, not only are old branches of industry disappearing or migrating to developing countries (which thereby rise economically, which is accompanied by the emergence of a new “global service precariat ”) - but at the same time, “the humanistic , often nationally coded, high-cultural educational knowledge in the global The liquefied, digitally networked attention economy is radically devalued. One canon is sinking, a new one is not in sight, but a thousand trends. Not only industrial capital is scrapped, but also cultural capital "( Gustav Seibt ), which - according to Cornelia Koppetsch - can lead to" new resentment communities "between the materially declassed (" angry citizens ") and" old-fashioned educated "who experience cultural loss (" Culture pessimists ”).

Urban planning

The music quarter in Leipzig represents the urban development plans and interpretations for the educated middle class in Germany during the early days

In many cities, entire quarters and districts were established for the first time in the 19th century, which were built for the needs of the ambitious bourgeoisie. These quarters differed on the one hand from the aristocratic city palaces, but on the other hand also from simple workers' quarters, were mostly generously surrounded by green areas and had a certain representative character.

The most famous examples of this type of urban planning include within large and university cities (selection):





  • Henrik Bispinck: educated citizens in democracy and dictatorship. Teachers at secondary schools in Mecklenburg 1918 to 1961, Munich 2011.
  • Georg Bollenbeck : Education and Culture . The splendor and misery of a German interpretation model. Insel, Frankfurt am Main 1994, Suhrkamp 1996, ISBN 3-518-39070-8 .
  • Werner Conze , Jürgen Kocka (ed.): Educated middle class in the 19th century . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart.
    • 1. The education system and professionalization in international comparisons. 1985, ISBN 3-608-91254-1 .
    • 2. Educational goods and knowledge. 1990.
    • 3. Lifestyle and socialization. 1992, ISBN 3-608-91558-3 .
    • 4. Political influence and social formation. 1989 (including: Hermann Bausinger : Folklore remarks on the subject of “Bildungsbürger” , full text ).
  • Christopher Dowe: Also educated citizens. Catholic students and academics in the German Empire, Göttingen 2006.
  • Ulrich Engelhardt: educated middle class. Conceptual and dogma history of a label, Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1986 (Industrielle Welt. Vol. 43).
  • Manfred Fuhrmann : The European educational canon of the bourgeois age. Frankfurt am Main 1999, expanded new edition 2004.
  • Lothar Gall : bourgeoisie, liberal movement and nation. Selected essays. Orbis-Verlag, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-572-01175-2 .
  • Michael Hartmann: The myth of the performance elite. Top careers and social origins in business, politics, justice and science. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2002, ISBN 3-593-37151-0
  • Karl-Heinz Hillmann : Dictionary of Sociology (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 410). 4th, revised and expanded edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-520-41004-4 , p. 102 (Lexicon-Lemma Bildungsbürgertum ).
  • Oskar Köhler : Citizens, bourgeoisie . In: Staatslexikon. Volume 1, Herder, Freiburg / B. 1985, Col. 1040 ff. (With further literature).
  • M. Rainer Lepsius : middle class and educated middle class . In: Democracy in Germany. Göttingen 1993, ISBN 3-525-35763-X .
  • Pia Schmid: German educated middle class. Civil education between 1750 and 1830. Phil. Diss., University of Frankfurt am Main 1984.
  • Klaus Vondung (Hrsg.): The Wilhelmine educated bourgeoisie. On the social history of his ideas. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1976, ISBN 3-525-33393-5 .

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. Margot Goeller: Keepers of Culture Education in the bourgeois cultural magazines German Rundschau and Neue Rundschau (1890-1914) . Peter Lang-Verlag, Bern, p. 20-25 .
  2. see: Heinz Schlaffer : The short history of German literature . Hanser, Munich; Vienna 2002, ISBN 978-3-7306-0021-4
  3. ^ Bernhard Schäfers: Elite | APuZ. Retrieved October 27, 2019 .
  4. Bernard Mandeville: An ESSAY on CHARITY, and charity schools. In: Ders .: The Fable of the Bees or Private Vices. Publick Benefits, Vol. 1 [1732] Indianapolis 1988, pp. 282 ff.
  5. Recording: Margot Köppt: The education of the citizen . In: The time . January 23, 1987, ISSN  0044-2070 ( [accessed October 27, 2019]).
  6. ^ Rolf Schneider: Oh, the educated middle class ! July 19, 2000 ( [accessed October 27, 2019]).
  7. ^ 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 .
  8. Jens Jessen : What remained of the nobility. A Bourgeois Contemplation , pp. 26-27, on Klampen Essay 2018, ISBN 978-3-86674-580-3 .
  9. ^ David Goodhart , The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics . C. Hurst & Co, 2017 ISBN 978-1-84904-799-9
  10. 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
  11. Cornelia Koppetsch : The society of anger. Right-wing populism in the global age , Transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2019