Bourgeois And Proud, by Paul Rosenberg

Bourgeois is one of those words people always misspell. It also conveys the speaker’s underlying content for honest labor, exchange, and middle class values. From Paul Rosenberg at

Even if you’re not exactly sure what bourgeois means, you’ve almost certainly noticed that it refers to something bad or embarrassing. In a moment I’ll explain its actual meaning, but first I want to turn the tables on it: I will maintain that bourgeois is good. For most of us, the bourgeois way of life is something to be sought, and hopefully to be attained.

Now, let’s get back to the proper meaning of the term.

Who Is Bourgeois?

The real meaning of bourgeois is “middle class;” it refers, especially, to people like shopkeepers. It began as a reference to people who were neither peasants (tenant farmers) and nobles (a legally privileged class). There are plenty of variations, but this is the core meaning of the word.

Bear in mind, however, that through 19th and 20th centuries, the term was seized by socialists, who turned it into a sort of insult. And the variants (petite bourgeois and so on), can be debated by socialist types at length.

Now, to support my characterization of intellectuals using the word as an insult, here’s a comment from a famous French writer named Gustave Flaubert:

Hatred of the bourgeois is the beginning of wisdom.

What really irked intellectuals about the bourgeois was that they were stealing their thunder. Over the 19th and early 20th centuries, intellectuals – people who wanted to sell their ideas – were rushing into socialism, because it would give them the same position the nobility used to hold: that of a legally privileged class.

This, however, was also the moment when the industrial revolution was hitting, and people chose commercial goods above socialist theories. In other words, the “masses” the socialists expected to lead lost their interest. Look at it this way:

Why would someone spend long hours with difficult authors promising a golden age, when all the components of that golden age were for sale, cheap, at the corner store?

And so people walked away from literary promises, and toward shopkeepers offering the goods of a golden era at reduced prices. Socialists have resented the bourgeois ever since.

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