(asked by Meghan B. from somewhere)

Can you explain the bourgeoisie? Every time I read/hear about it, it seems to have a negative connotation but I’m not sure what exactly makes someone bourgeoisie or not.
I don’t know if I should be flattered or annoyed by this question?
Flattered because of the trust that person puts into my knowledge.
Annoyed because that person is obviously not aware of the existence of dictionaries, encyclopedias and of course Wikipedia (let’s not mention Google), or simply because she’s too lazy or spoon-fed to search for the meaning herself.
pixel Can you explain the bourgeoisie?

16 Responses to “Can you explain the bourgeoisie?”

  1. Actually, I'm neither lazy nor spoon-fed and have researched the meaning myself. However, while I know that you're not representative of EVERY French person and maybe not even most of the French, I was simply looking for one French person's perspective on this topic since it is probably different than my own.


  2. Hi Meghan,

    Sorry if there's a misunderstanding, but I understand your question as "what is the bourgeoisie?" and in this case, this is not me that you need but a dictionary or an encyclopedia.

    If you wonder what I think of the French bourgeoisie, you may already know the answer if you're a regular reader.

    If you wonder what the French generally think about it, well there are as many opinions as there are social classes in France I guess, or maybe even more.

  3. For a blog which is called 'Ask a Frenchman', you don't seem to keen on answering people's questions, lol.

  4. Dude you position yourself as a source of information, then you snap the head off somebody who asks a reasonable question. Make up your mind. And possibly think twice before reinforcing all the negative stereotypes about the French.

  5. Dudes, it's called "Ask a Frenchman" not "I'll do your research for you."
    I don't see how my mind is not made up, I don't answer questions that can be answered by a google or a wikipedia search (do I need to give you the link, or will you succeed in finding it yourselves?)

    And by the way, the bourgeoisie is not a French thing.

    If you're not happy with this, tough shit…

  6. It could have been an opportunity to discuss the ambivalent views the French have on wealth though.

  7. Not a French thing? Molière might disagree.

  8. I think maybe she was just asking for a little more color and context for what the term means in the present day-I've wondered that myself. The definition in the dictionary is a bit confusing, actually, as it is said to mean an "idle rich" ruling class, but is also frequently equated with the term "middle class" in literature and political tracts.

    And of course in the present day there may be other shades of meaning. For instance, is bourgeois something many people aspire to be, even though many of them speak negatively of people from those classes? In the US, generally there is a feeling right now that the "new rich" (young investment bankers and such) have caused a lot of the economic issues we're having right now, and yet many people certainly wouldn't mind having their lifestyle-and they'd love their children to become bankers. Is it associated with an educated/intellectual class, or just having money? Does it refer mostly to Parisian society, or wealthy people all over France? Do young people reject the term/have they begun using it to mean something different recently?

    I can understand your impatience with what seems like a simple question, but talking about class is not such a simple matter for those of us from societies where we still, to a degree, officially deny that classes exist.

  9. -Boulet: I would consider the ambivalent relationship to money a different issue. But maybe not.

    -Christa: It's as much a French thing as it is a English, German, American, Spanish, Western World, thing, hence my previous statement. No need to try to be a wise ass with me. Especially with Molière…

    -Kate: See, when it's asked intelligently… That I'm willing to answer (but not tonight, hopefully tomorrow)… But "Frenchman! Bourgeoisie! Answer! Quick!" and then being all defensive about it afterward instead of saying "Sorry, I didn't express myself correctly" doesn't work too well with me.

    So, I'll try to answer that asap.

  10. Simply épater-ing, chéri . . .

  11. Well, come on people. It's up to you to come up with the kind of question that can be readily answered by this blog. You might as well be asking, "What do the French think of air?" Or "What is the French attitude towards ice cream? Pro or con?" Etc.

    Perhaps it might have been better to ask something like, "Does the yuppie phenomenon exist in French the way it does in the US?" That would probably have been more answerable.

  12. Christa, what the hell does this even mean (and I doubt we're intimate enough to be allowed to call me "chéri")

    Thomas, thanks, finally… I guess a good reminder that I'm not a replacement for people's brains is necessary once in a while.

  13. @ Christa- David is right,Bourgeoisie is not a french invention (ouch,I know,it seems almost impossible but it is true :) ) )The noun Bourgeoisie derives from the German noun "burg" which means town. Really, this IS in every decent dictonary and I CANNOT imagine that at your history hour your teacher has never mentioned it… But let's imagine no one has ever told you that - the "Bourgeoisie" started to emerge in Europe around the time of Early Renaissence and, the word shows it, it comes from german burg (town) and at the time meant "people living in towns' ,as opposed to aristocracy or peasants … Now, if the original word was a german one, than this should be a clue,right,about where it started to develop….

    @ Kate. Now, really, this is a very marxist post .I will quoute the part I find most strange - " "Bourgeoisie ….. idle rich" ruling class, but is also frequently equated with the term "middle class" in literature and political tracts." Kate, assuming/thinking/imagining that the Bourgeoisie is a word for rich-ruling-class ,this is something I could have heard from a Soviet Komisar but not from anyone else in western Europe, USA,UK or else… You might not know, but in Europe the Bourgeoisie is also connected to the 1848 revolutions that took place in all western countries and that in the XVI- XVII th century the Bourgeoisie was generally perceived as a progressive economical and political part of the society. In fact,at the time it was THE only part of the society that stood against aristocracy. Do not equal the bourgeois people to bank managers because that is limitative, dishonest and just not true.

    @ All ( not to David, of course). Everihting ranging from a small merchant to a bank owner or manager ( y compris) the people working in all types of offices is/was part of the Bourgeoisie. In any country.It is NOT a mainly french thing but it is mostly a European one.It is not a good/bad/white/black thing. It just is.It has nothing to do with rulling anything,it has to do with some economical aspects.

    And no, I am not a historian and yes, I understand why David could not/did not want to answer it - it would be a huge answer and the way the question was formulated was extremely unhelpful. Like me asking "What is the United States? "….

  14. Rosabell, thanks for your comment, it is much appreciated.

    One thing though, about your answer to Kate. Nowadays one can talk about the bourgeoisie from two different approaches. The historical one, which you did very well; or the social one, which Kate did, which I will do as soon as I have the time to do so (maybe even today if we're lucky) and in that latter case, one cannot talk about the bourgeoisie without having a Marxist approach.
    A reminder though: having a Marxist approach doesn't mean one is a Marxist. It doesn't mean one isn't a Marxist either. It means one recognizes society is comprised of several social classes, some having more power and/or money than others, thus creating inequalities and social tensions. But more about that very soon.

  15. :) yes, but I preffer the historical approach. In this particular situation the marxist one seems to me to close some doors while the historical one seems to open them up.Like making people to think a bit about past, history a.s.o instead of just take for granted any definition ( googled or not). After all, Wikipedia is not the ultimate guide for life and the essence of "truth'…

  16. OK, I tried to answer to the question asked from Kate's perspective but no, this is totally off-topic on this blog.
    To my knowledge, French bourgeoisie is no different from the other bourgeoisies in Europe and North America, except from the other usual cultural and historical differences.

    End of topic.

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