Term with many meanings that must be determined from context. Under the old regime, anyone who lived in an urban area was a bourgeois or member of the bourgeoisie, but the term was usually applied only to wealthier people who did no manual labor. Bourgeois were also those who lived from their invested income or property, thus “living nobly” and constituting a distinct social category that had its own representation in municipal politics. In addition, the bourgeoisie often enjoyed certain privileges that were called the “rights of the city.” After the Revolution, the term “bourgeoisie” became associated with the concept of a capitalist social class. In the nineteenth century, most notably in the work of Karl Marx and other socialist writers, the French Revolution was described as a bourgeois revolution in which a capitalist bourgeoisie overthrew the feudal aristocracy in order to remake society according to capitalist interests and values, thereby paving the way for the Industrial Revolution. Thus, when many nineteenth and twentieth century commentators write about the bourgeoisie, they mean something quite different from what contemporaries meant in the eighteenth century. Careful attention to the proper definition in use is essential.



“Bourgeois/Bourgeoisie,” LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY: EXPLORING THE FRENCH REVOUTION, accessed May 26, 2024,