"Bourgeois" redirects here. For other uses, see Bourgeois (disambiguation).
The prototypical bourgeois: Monsieur Jourdain, the protagonist in Molière's play Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (1670).

The bourgeoisie (Eng.: /bʊərʒwɑːˈz/; French pronunciation: ​ [buʁʒwazi]) is a polysemous French term that can mean:

  • originally and generally, "those who live in the borough", that is to say, the people of the city (including merchants and craftsmen), as opposed to those of rural areas; in this sense, the bourgeoisie began to grow in Europe from the 11th century and particularly during the Renaissance of the 12th century, with the first developments of rural exodus and urbanization.
  • a legally defined class of the Middle Ages to the end of the " Ancien Régime" (Old Regime) in France, that of inhabitants having the rights of citizenship and political rights in a city (comparable to the German term Bürgertum and Bürger). This bourgeoisie destroyed aristocratic privilege and established civic equality after the French monarchy collapsed. The aristocracy crumbled because it refused to reform institutions and financial systems. [1]
  • a sociologically defined class, especially in contemporary times, referring to people with a certain cultural and financial capital belonging to the middle or upper stratum of the middle class: the upper (haute), middle (moyenne) and petty (petite) bourgeoisie (which are collectively designated "the Bourgeoisie"). An affluent and often opulent stratum of the middle class (capitalist class) who stand opposite the proletariat class. [2]

The "bourgeoisie", in its original sense, is intimately linked to the existence of cities recognized as such by their urban charters (e.g. municipal charter, town privileges, German town law) so there was no bourgeoisie "outside the walls of the city" beyond which the people were " peasants" submitted to the stately courts and manorialism (except for the traveling " Fair bourgeoisie" living outside urban territories, who retained their city rights and domicile).

In Marxist philosophy the bourgeoisie is the social class that came to own the means of production during modern industrialization and whose societal concerns are the value of property and the preservation of capital, to ensure the perpetuation of their economic supremacy in society. [3] Joseph Schumpeter saw the creation of new bourgeoisie as the driving force behind the capitalist engine, particularly entrepreneurs who took risks to bring innovation to industries and the economy through the process of creative destruction. [4]


The Modern French word bourgeois derived from the Old French burgeis (walled city), which derived from bourg ( market town), from the Old Frankish burg (town); in other European languages, the etymologic derivations are the Middle English burgeis, the Middle Dutch burgher, the German Bürger, the Modern English burgess, and the Polish burżuazja, which occasionally is synonymous with the intelligentsia. [5]

In English, "bourgeoisie" (a French citizen-class) identified a social class oriented to economic materialism and hedonism, and to upholding the extreme political and economic interests of the capitalist ruling class. [6] In the 18th century, before the French Revolution (1789–99), in the French feudal order, the masculine and feminine terms bourgeois and bourgeoise identified the rich men and women who were members of the urban and rural Third Estate – the common people of the French realm, who violently deposed the absolute monarchy of the Bourbon King Louis XVI (r. 1774–91), his clergy, and his aristocrats. Hence, since the 19th century, the term "bourgeoisie" usually is politically and sociologically synonymous with the ruling upper class of a capitalist society. [7]

Historically, the medieval French word bourgeois denoted the inhabitants of the bourgs (walled market-towns), the craftsmen, artisans, merchants, and others, who constituted "the bourgeoisie", they were the socio-economic class between the peasants and the landlords, between the workers and the owners of the means of production. As the economic managers of the (raw) materials, the goods, and the services, and thus the capital (money) produced by the feudal economy, the term "bourgeoisie" evolved to also denote the middle class – the businessmen and businesswomen who accumulated, administered, and controlled the capital that made possible the development of the bourgs into cities. [8]

Contemporarily, the terms "bourgeoisie" and "bourgeois" (noun) identify the ruling class in capitalist societies, as a social stratum; while "bourgeois" (adjective / noun modifier) describes the Weltanschauung ( worldview) of men and women whose way of thinking is socially and culturally determined by their economic materialism and philistinism, a social identity famously mocked in Molière's comedy Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (1670), which satirises buying the trappings of a noble-birth identity as the means of climbing the social ladder. [9] [10] The 18th century saw a partial rehabilitation of bourgeois values in genres such as the drame bourgeois (bourgeois drama) and " bourgeois tragedy".

The 16th-century German banker Jakob Fugger and his principal accountant, M. Schwarz, registering an entry to a ledger. The background shows a file cabinet indicating the European cities where the Fugger Bank conducts business. (1517)