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  The term bourgeoisie (from a lost medieval Latin word which also gives the English ‘burgess’), in sociology, is used in two senses based upon the definition described by Marx.

In one sense, it is applied loosely by sociologists to either the middle or ruling classes within capitalist society. Here bourgeoisie refers to those groups that have a vested interest in the preservation of capitalism and are thus in opposition to the working class. For Marx, the capitalist system of production involved two main classes: the bourgeoisie who owned the productive forces and the proletariat who did not. The proletariat are employed by the bourgeoisie and paid a wage, but this does not reflect the full value of the goods they produce. The difference or ‘surplus-value’ is creamed off by the bourgeoisie in the form of profit. According to Marx, the two classes are locked in a struggle over this surplus-value—a struggle which will ultimately result in the destruction of the capitalist system.

In its second usage, the term bourgeoisie is perhaps most accurately applied in a historical sense to the urban social class, which comprised the entrepreneurs, merchants and industrialists who were active in the earliest stages of capitalist development. Used in this way it refers to an actual historical group. DA

See also alienation; capital; class; conflict theory; labour process; Marxism.Further reading T. Bottomore, Classes in Modern Society; , T. Campbell, Seven Theories of Human Society, chapter 6.



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