[Marxism] Petty bourgeois - the consciousness yardstick

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Fri Aug 13 14:25:02 MDT 2004

Carrol wrote:

Probably about 90% of the u.s. population are working class. A result of
that is that distinctions _within_ the working class are seen by the
sociological imagination as evidence of a difference of class. And one
of the reasons "petty bourgeois" is not very useful as a description of
consciousness of u.s. residents is that it describes _everyone_.

If that is the case, then insisting politically on the reference to "class"
factors is probably politically not very helpful, it would be more apposite
to refer to "the people".

In Western Europe, the concept of "petty bourgeois" (Kleinburger,
petits-bourgeois, piccolo-borghese, pequeño-burgues, ?????? ????? and so on)
traditionally referred to self-employed proprietors, with or without a few
employees, and sometimes to members of the professional classes or public
servants who aspire to the culture of the haute bourgeoisie, without however
owning the same amount of capital. The term is thus applied to those
middleclass people who highly value money and possessions, and
(conservatively) mistrust new or different ideas.

Classically, the "Spiessburger" is pejoratively defined as the narrowminded,
rule-following citizen, who nags others for flouting social rules or
conventions, and, as it were, defends the township armed with a pitchfork (a
spiess is a spear, spit, spike or skewer, sometimes it refers to an NCO or
low-rank officer), only to be mown down by the opposition. Traditionally,
the Netherlands is the quintessential petty-bourgeois country, symbolised by
Rembrandt's painting "The Nightwatch" and the country's obsession with rules
and keeping order.

I doubt sociologically though that 90% of the US population is working
class, if you look more closely at asset ownership, incomes and occupations.
The "proletarian condition" is defined by the socio-economic compulsion to
work as employee for a wage or salary, because of lack of other assets or
income source that would make working on own account, or not working,
feasible as a long-term prospect. There would be more than 10% of the
American population that can escape from the proletarian condition, i.e.
working for a boss is basically a choice for them, rather than an absolute
necessity as a source of a livelihood.


More information about the Marxism mailing list