Who Are the ‘Bourgeoisie’ and Who Are the ‘Proletariat’?
The struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletarian is the core component of socialism. Marx reasoned that human development is based on class struggle, that an oppressed group could only take so much before they’d inevitably rise and crush their oppressor, only to continue the cycle anew. Marx essentially believed that for humanity to progress, they’d ultimately need to abandon the notion of class and that the rising of the proletariat should be the end of this constant class struggle.
But who exactly were the Bourgeoisie? Well, the term is a French word that originally described city dwellers. That is, it referred to people who were from the “boroughs” as opposed to rural farmers and the like. Marx’s usage of the term however, referred to the what he referred to as the middle class.
While feudal lords were at the top of the societal pyramid, with peasants serving them directly; the middle class were business owners who employed peasants in their factories and the like. The middle class were not as powerful as Lords (and ultimately served them as well) but they were much better off than peasants.
The phrase proletariat has its roots in the Roman Empire. The Romans held a census every five years where they would register citizens along with their property. This was how they defined a citizen’s worth. The bottom rung of the Roman ladder was the “Proleterius” from the Latin “Prole” meaning offspring; the Romans figured that the only thing the poor contributed to society was their children. Baby factories to create colonists to further the borders of the Roman Empire.
Of course, modern society has redefined what “Middle Class” means. The phrase now refers to (per the definition put forward by statistician Thomas Henry Craig Stevenson in 1913); skilled workers, managers and owners of property. Our use of a phrase that refers to the Bourgeoisie as the enemy has caused tension wherein the modern middle class believe that socialists consider them the enemy but it’s a bit more nuanced than that.
Ultimately, language changes and develops over time. These days, the dichotomy between the Proletariat and the Bourgeois is better understood as the divide between the Ruling Class and the Working class. From a socialist standpoint, “Working Class” refers to anyone who needs to sell their labour to survive while the parasite of the Ruling Class live on centuries old inherited wealth, extract value from other’s labour, hoard their finances and manipulate the imaginary stock market to survive.
Thus, with the exception of unrepentant class traitors (more on that later) the middle class should be considered a subsection of the Working Class and treated as comrades and allies. Indeed if Socialism is to take hold and fully emancipate mankind the working class must unite, from the lowest skilled to the highest, all workers who are trapped in the horrific cycle of wager slavery, consumption and debt are vital to the revolution.
So in summary; the Proletariat are workers who are forced to sell their skill set in exchange for money, while the Bourgeoisie are those who buy people’s skills in order to amass wealth.