[boor-zhwah-zee; Fr. boor-zhwa-zee]

In social and political theory, the social order dominated by the property-owning class. The term arose in medieval France, where it denoted the inhabitant of a walled town. The concept of the bourgeoisie is most closely associated with Karl Marx and those who were influenced by him. According to Marx, the bourgeoisie plays a heroic role in history by revolutionizing industry and modernizing society; however, it also seeks to monopolize the benefits of modernization and exploit the property-less proletariat, thereby creating revolutionary tensions. The end result will be a final revolution in which the property of the bourgeoisie is expropriated and class conflict, exploitation, and the state are abolished. Much employed by 19th-century social reformers, the term had nearly disappeared from the vocabulary of political writers and politicians by the mid 20th century. In popular speech, it connotes philistinism, materialism, and a striving concern for “respectability.” Seealso social class.

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