Bourgeoisie: Definition, Features, Ideas & Facts

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What is the Bourgeoisie?

Bourgeoisie is a term used to refer to a sector of the middle-class population, which has a good economic income and the possession of material or capital goods, such as property.

The origin of the term comes from the Frenchbourgeoisie” and it began to be used during the Middle Ages to identify the social class of merchants and artisans, who had a good social position without being nobles and lived in “boroughs” or cities. Thus, the bourgeoisie maintained an urban lifestyle very different from that of the farmers.

According to the philosopher, economist and sociologist Karl Marx, the bourgeoisie is that social class of capitalism that employs the working class and owns production and its business. For Marx, the bourgeoisie is the opposite of the working class.


The economic situation of the bourgeoisie allowed it to incorporate domestic staff. Painting by Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, 1739.

How did the Bourgeoisie Emerge?

The bourgeoisie began to emerge during the Middle Ages, when commerce was developed by a small group of the population, since the church and the king controlled most of the economic activities.

This phenomenon coincided with the progressive mobilization of people from the countryside to the city, due to periods of poor harvests and famines. Back then, a large number of people settled in the cities and constituted a working and privileged class at the same time, called the bourgeoisie.

In this way, bourgeois society began to develop an economic openness and to establish itself in groups with commercial control and power, without belonging to the clergy or the nobility. Later, this group of merchants began to distinguish themselves from the rest of the city’s inhabitants.

The development of commerce brought with it the emergence of wages, the monetary economy, credits, loans, and bills of exchange, along with the expansion of universities and guilds.

Features of the Bourgeoisie

Among the main characteristics of the bourgeoisie we can highlight that:

  • It arose in the Middle Ages and during feudalism.
  • The bourgeoisie were mainly merchants, they were not nobles, feudal lords, serfs, or peasants.
  • Currently it is a term that refers to the middle class that owns properties, businesses or a good economic performance.
  • They settled in boroughs, walled cities from which the term comes.
  • At first they were despised by the nobility, however over the years they were gaining power and respect until they reached high political positions and received social benefits.
  • They obtained a great prominence during the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.

Ideas of the Bourgeoisie

The three great values ​​of the bourgeoisie, promulgated during the French Revolution, were equality, liberty and fraternity. In addition to these, below are some characteristic ideas of the bourgeoisie:

  • They defended personal and civil liberty, made up of free religion, free press, free expression, and the economy.
  • They believed in private property, defended the capitalist system and believed that everyone has the right to own, control and dispose of property.
  • They supported the division of the State into different powers and with a parliamentary system, a National Constitution and the equality of all individuals before the law.
  • They supported the flexible social hierarchy, that is, that all individuals had the possibility of ascending or descending from any socio-economic scale.
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