Anthony has taught Political Science at the university level and is working on his Ph.D. in Political Science.
What Is the Bourgeoisie?
Before we get into exploring how the bourgeoisie and Marxism relate to each other, we need to specifically define the bourgeoise itself. Simply put, the bourgeoisie is the oppressive class, which Karl Marx argued would be destroyed in the workers' revolution. Specifically, the bourgeoisie was the class which controlled the means of production as well as almost all of the wealth. The means of production can be identified as natural resources, mills, factories, and anything else that goes into creating goods and/or services to sell on the market. While the French term bourgeoisie is not often used today, a term meant to represent similar attributes that Marx saw in the bourgeoisie has taken its place: 1 percenters. Whichever term one prefers, it can be shown that members of today's society see the same problems that Marx saw.
Karl Marx saw his theory as the next step economic society would take after capitalism. Marx found problems with capitalism because wealth and power eventually flowed upward to a few instead of downward to the masses—the few being the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie would then use the tools of capitalism to protect its wealth and power and to oppress the masses.
It's important to know that ''bourgeoisie'' may not be synonymous with ''rich.'' While the domination of wealth is an important aspect of the bourgeoisie, it's not enough to call these individuals members of the bourgeoisie. Controlling the means of production was as important, if not more important, than simply possessing wealth.
The Bourgeoisie's Problems
The essence of Marxism is a power struggle between two classes: the bourgeoisie, which we already defined, and the proletariat, or working class. Marx found the bourgeoisie to be at fault for the problems faced by the proletariat. These problems manifested themselves into two categories: moral and practical. While Marx did not use these terms, the use of them here may be helpful to understand why Marx thought the bourgeoisie was problematic.
By controlling wealth and the means of production, Marx argued that the bourgeoisie held all the power and forced the proletariat to take dangerous, low-paying jobs, in order to survive. Despite having superior numbers, the proletariat was powerless against the will of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie's control would be used mostly for its own benefit. The proletarians had no means with which to protect themselves or to improve their lives. While fighting may seem easy to us, let's remember that the proletarians lived in fear. They were afraid to lose their jobs; their jobs weren't much, but they were something to lose.
In addition to the moral problems of the bourgeoisie, Marx also found a practical problem. The goods and services sold by the bourgeoisie were almost exclusively the products of the labor of the proletariat. Let's use the example of a steel mill. The owner, part of the bourgeoisie, owns the iron ore as well as the mill, but the steel would only be produced through the efforts of the workers from the proletariat. The owner would receive the most money from the production of steel, despite the workers having contributed the most effort toward creating the steel.
Marxism's Supposed Solution
The moral and practical problems caused by the bourgeoisie would be addressed in the workers' revolution. Marx argued that eventually the proletariat would rise up and seize the means of production, which would lead to workers receiving an equal share of the profits. They would all then be owners who would continue to share in the labor. This would address the moral problems, as the proletariat would receive much more money than it had under capitalism, and it would also address the practical problems because the proletariat would now receive more than a minority of the profits from their work.
Okay, let's review. Marxism was Marx's answer to the problems created by the owners of the means of production and most of the wealth: the bourgeoisie, or what he termed the oppressive class. The bourgeoisie used its power and wealth to oppress the proletariat, or the working class, for the purposes of sustaining its wealth. Marx argued that these problems could only be solved by a workers' revolution in which the workers would take the means of production for themselves, which can be identified as natural resources, mills, factories, and anything else that goes into creating goods and/or services to sell on the market.
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