Sociology Index


Bourgeoisie Class, Social Class

Petite Bourgeoisie is a middle class of professionals and small-business people who work for themselves or own small productive facilities. Karl Marx predicted that this class would be gradually eliminated by the consolidation of large capital under competitive forces.

Petite (Petty) Bourgeoisie, just as bourgeoisie, the petite bourgeoisie own some means of production, though these are almost always limited in scale compared to what is owned by the bourgeoisie. Petite bourgeoisie does not need to sell their labour power in order to earn a living. The petite bourgeois does not necessarily need to buy the labour power of others, that is, the petite bourgeois can work by herself with the tools of the trade she has acquired.

Even if the petite bourgeois does chose to buy the labour power of someone else, she almost always labours alongside the hired help. Hence, it is possible that the petite bourgeoisie could be brought to side with the proletariat in a socialist revolution.

The phrase “petite bourgeoisie” is often wrongly taken to mean what we would commonly call “the middle class”. Given Marx’s useage of the term, the petite bourgeoisie would actually be closest to the term “entrepreneurs”.

Demythologising the petite bourgeoisie: The Italian case
Linda Weiss, Senior Teaching Fellow in the School of Humanities, Griffith University, Australia
Abstract: The political volatility and economic instability of the petite bourgeoisie are taken for granted in most political and sociological analysis. Viewed as a pivotal force in historic and contemporary movements of the extreme right, it is widely believed to exercise a constant 'threat' potential, thus guaranteeing its protection throughout the post-war period — above all in the Italian context where small economic entrepreneurs persist in substantial numbers. Using a variety of evidence, including electoral and survey materials, this article counterposes to the 'pathological' interpretation of the petite bourgeoisie an alternative profile, one that stresses its confidence, its stability of allegiance and its commitment to centrism.

The Petite Bourgeoisie in Late Capitalism - F. Bechhofer and B. Elliott
Department of Sociology, University of Edinburgh, Annual Review of Sociology Vol. 11: 181-207
Over the past decade or so social scientists and policy makers have grown increasingly interested in the role of the petite bourgeoisie in capitalist societies. The paper begins by sketching the major sociological approaches to the study of this stratum and the diverse characteristics of and propositions put forth about the fortunes of the petite bourgeoisie.
The second section draws together evidence from several western societies in an attempt to appraise arguments about the alleged archaism, the long run decline, or the possible regeneration of the small business sector of western economies.
The economic significance of the petite bourgeoisie is assessed with respect to information about the capacity of the stratum to provide employment, to generate new jobs, and to stimulate innovation. The small business sector also has considerable political significance. Though its role in the political life of particular societies shows considerable variation it is everywhere an important repository of ideas and sentiments supportive of capitalism and the institutions of liberal democracy. This is a fact which contemporary right wing governments have been quick to recognize. The petite bourgeoisie is a socially distinctive and persistent element in capitalist societies. Factors that do much to account for its reproduction include the effects of recession, processes of technical change, and government policies that support and encourage smallseale entrepreneurial activity. The paper concludes by arguing that even in economies dominated by large corporations, petits bourgeois businesses continue to provide jobs for a substantial proportion of the population and the most personal and direct experience of capitalism for many citizens.

The Petite Bourgeoisie in Europe 1780-1914: Geoffrey Crossick, Heinz-Gerhard Haupt - 1998
The Petite Bourgeoisie in Europe 1780-1914 is the first general study of the social, economic, cultural and political development of this ambiguous social group. Through comparative analysis, Geoffrey Crossick and Heinz-Gerhard Haupt examine issues such as the centrality of small enterprise to industrial change, the importance of family and locality, the search for stability with status, and the associated political move to the right. This invaluable and authoritative assessment ably explores the emergence of a distinctive petite-bourgeois cultural and political identity.

Has the traditional petite bourgeoisie persisted? - Carl J. Cuneo.
Abstract It is argued on the basis of an analysis of Canadian Census and Labour Force Survey data that the traditional petite bourgeoisie, or the self-employed who hire little or no wage labour, has not continuously declined between 1931 and 1981. The petite bourgeoisie persisted generally between 1931 and 1951 and became stronger between 1931 and 1941. In some economic sectors, such as building construction, it persisted at considerable strength until 1961. Intersectoral differences occur in the size of the traditional petite bourgeoisie: it was generally larger in agriculture, fishing, retail trade, personal services, and the autonomous professions than in forestry, manufacturing, mining, and transportation. The petite bourgeoisie also persisted in isolated occupational pockets, such as boot and shoe repairers, upholsterers, taxicab drivers, and real estate agents. Alternative methodological and theoretical explanations are offered for these findings. In particular, it is suggested that the persistence and uneven decline of the traditional petite bourgeoisie follows closely several conceptual distinctions in Marxist political economy.