World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Petite bourgeoisie

Article Id: WHEBN0000938689
Reproduction Date:

Title: Petite bourgeoisie  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Bourgeoisie, Middle class, Social class in Cambodia, Struggle session, Golos Truda
Collection: French Words and Phrases, Marxist Terminology, Social Classes, Social Groups, Social Inequality
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Petite bourgeoisie

Petite bourgeoisie (French pronunciation: ​), also petty bourgeoisie (literally small bourgeoisie), is a French term (sometimes derogatory) referring to a social class comprising semi-autonomous peasantry and small-scale merchants whose politico-economic ideological stance is determined by reflecting that of a haute (high) bourgeoisie, with which the petite bourgeoisie seeks to identify itself, and whose bourgeois morality it strives to imitate.[1]

The term is politico-economic, and references historical materialism. It originally denoted a sub-stratum of the Middle class classes in the 18th and early-19th centuries. In the mid-19th century, the pre-eminient theorist of socio-politico-economy, Karl Marx, and other Marxist theorists used the term petite bourgeoisie to identify the socio-economic stratum of the bourgeoisie that comprised small-scale capitalists such as shop-keepers and workers who manage the production, distribution, and/or exchange of commodities and/or services owned by their bourgeois employers.[2][3]


  • Definition 1
  • Role in fascism 2
  • Literary treatment of the petite bourgeoisie 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


The petite bourgeoisie are economically distinct from the proletariat and the lumpenproletariat, who are social-class strata who entirely rely on the sale of their labor-power for survival; and also are distinct from the capitalist class haute bourgeoisie (high bourgeoisie) who own the means of production, and thus can buy the labor-power of the proletariat and lumpenproletariat to work the means of production. Though the petite bourgeoisie can buy the labor of others, they typically work alongside their employees, unlike the haute bourgeoisie.

Role in fascism

Historically, Karl Marx predicted that the petite bourgeoisie were to lose in the course of economic development. In the event, R. J. B. Bosworth suggested that they were to become the political mainstay of Fascism, which political reaction was their terroristic response to the inevitable loss of power (economic, political, social) to the haute bourgeoisie.[4] Wilhelm Reich also highlighted the principal support of the rise of fascism in Germany given by the petite bourgeoisie and middle-class in The Mass Psychology of Fascism. He claimed that the middle classes were a hotbed for political reaction due to their reliance on the patriarchal family (small businesses, according to Reich, are often self-exploiting enterprises of families headed by the father, whose morality binds the family together in their somewhat precarious economic position), and the sexual repression that underlies it.[5]

Literary treatment of the petite bourgeoisie

Søren Kierkegaard wrote that "the petty bourgeois is spiritless[...] Devoid of imagination, as the petty bourgeois always is, he lives within a certain orbit of trivial experiences as to how things come about, what is possible, what usually happens, no matter whether he is a tapster or a prime minister. This is the way the petty bourgeois has lost himself and God."[6] According to him, the petite bourgeoisie exemplifies a spiritual emptiness that is rooted in an overemphasis on the worldly, rather than the inwardness of the self. However, Kierkegaard's indictment relies less on a class analysis of the petite bourgeoisie than on the perception of a worldview which was common in his middle-class milieu.

In fact, though there have been many depictions of the petite bourgeoisie in literature as well as in cartoons, based on an image of their overly conventional practicality, the realities of the petite bourgeoisie throughout the 19th century were more complex.[7] All the same, writers have been concerned with petite bourgeois morality and behavior, and have portrayed them as undesirable characters. Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People was a play written in direct response to the reception of another one of his plays for making "indecent" references to syphilis, and in general his work was considered scandalous in its disregard for the morality of the period. Later, Bertolt Brecht's concern with Nazism and his Marxist politics (see above) got him interested in exploring the petite bourgeois mind, and this interest led him to represent the petite bourgeoisie repeatedly throughout his work (one was even titled The Seven Deadly Sins of the Petite Bourgeoisie).[8]

In his book[9] James C. Scott dedicates an entire chapter to describing some features of the petite bourgeoisie. First he points out the 'contempt' of this class by Marxists due to the ambiguity of their political position. He further points out that this position of 'contempt' or 'distaste' encompasses both the socialist bloc and large capitalist democracies due to the difficulty of monitoring, taxing, and policing of this class which results from complexity, variety, and mobility of activities taken on by this class. He points out this class has existed for most of civilized history and that even those who are not part of this class have to some degree desired to become small property owners due to the conferred autonomy and social standing. He continues that the desire to keep, restore land has been the leitmotif of most radically egalitarian mass movements. He argues that the petite bourgeoisie have indispensable economic role in terms of invention and innovation citing as an example software startups that develop these ideas which are then usually bought by larger firms. He also points out that small shopskeepers provide several "unpaid" social services such as:

See also


  1. ^ Habermas [1968] Technology and Science as Ideology quotation:
  2. ^ Encyclopaedia of Marxism - Glossary. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  3. ^ - Chapter 1Communist Manifesto Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  4. ^ R. J. B. Bosworth, Mussolini's Italy, p. 134 ISBN 1-59420-078-5
  5. ^ The Mass Psychology of Fascism
  6. ^ The Sickness Unto Death, Penguin Books, 1989, pg. 71
  7. ^ The Petite Bourgeoisie in Europe, 1780-1914: Enterprise, Family and Independence, Geoffrey Crossic and Heinz Gerhardt-Haupt, Routledge, 1995.
  8. ^ "'The Little House in Louisiana': The Role of the Petite Bourgeoisie in Brecht's Concept of Nazism", Brecht Unbound, Associated University Presses.
  9. ^ Scott, James C. (2012). Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play. Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press. pp. 110–126.  

Further reading

  • Andrews, G. J. and Phillips D R (2005) Petit Bourgeois healthcare? The big small-business of private complementary medical practice Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 11, 87-104.
  • F. Bechhofer and B. Elliott, Persistence and change the petit bourgeoisie in the industrial society, Eur J Soc xv 11 (1976), pp. 74–79.
  • B. Elliott and G. McCrone, What else does someone with capital do?, New Soc 31 (1979), pp. 512–513.
  • F. Bechhofer and B. Elliott, The petite Bourgeoisie comparative studies of an uneasy stratum, Macmillan, London (1981).
  • R. Scase and R. Goffee, The real world of the small business owner, Croom Helm, London (1981).
  • D.R. Phillips and J. Vincent, Petit Bourgeois Care private residential care for the elderly, Policy Politics 14 (1986) (2), pp. 189–208.
  • Geoffrey Crossick and Heinz-Gerhard Haupt, The Petite Bourgeoisie in Europe 1780-1914. Routledge. 1998.
  • "Petite bourgeoisie" at the Encyclopedia of Marxism .

External links

  • The dictionary definition of petite bourgeoisie at Wiktionary
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.