Bourgeoisie and Education
This paper will explore the sight of bourgeois society in the Western European from their educational aspect. To begin the discussion, this article will first briefly explain the history of bourgeois and how they were divided into several levels of classes. The second part of this discussion will engage with education as the value in bourgeois society. The last part will explore more the comparison of the social classes from the same context.
Bourgeois is a special term in politic and socioeconomic context defining one specific class status in a society. It was first coined during the eleventh century in France and originated from a Southwestern medieval town in France, Bourgs. The people of Bourgs, at that time, were allowed to be free and liberated from the feudal jurisdiction. In the later periods, the idea of bourgeois had elaborated with the development of politic and economic situation. Its meaning had dedicated to a society that could be able to possess independent means and belonged to the middle position between the clergy or nobility and the peasant.
The seventeenth century was a period at which the term ‘Bourgeois’ started to be widely used in Western Europe. A century later, as described in Jerrold Seigel’s book, Modernity and Bourgeois Life: Society, Politics, and Culture in England, France, and Germany since 1750, the ‘Bourgeois’ was acknowledged during the great French Revolution in 1789 as the main motivation of the revolution. In the eightieth and ninetieth century, the gap between the rich and the poor became wider and the less elite society was split into two different types: the landlord and the worker. To balance and to acknowledge such gap, the Englishman, Lord Brougham, in his speech, mentioned that the middle class could actually ‘connect the upper and lower class.’ This was the cornerstone in which the bourgeois class began to flourish during the period. Continued in the contemporary era, the term bourgeois is associated with Marxism. From the point of the economic term, the classic Bourgeois is linked to ‘capitalist’ by considering their effort to collect their belonging: ‘either the possessor of capital, or the receiver of an income derived from such a source, or a profit-making entrepreneur, or all of these things’.
Basically, there are some chief elements to determine the identity of bourgeois through the context of socioeconomic and politic. In socioeconomic context, the bourgeois identity could be identified by observing their lifestyle, possession of property, as well as their occupation, and through the politic context, as the bourgeois identity could be observed by looking at their roles in society.
The status of bourgeois according to an eightieth-century observer, Yves Besnard, can be classified through their occupation. He pointed out to a certain occupation that strongly associated to bourgeois class. Bourgeois could be the one who earned money from the profit of their property. Though it is still debatable because of the dividing line of the lower middle class in the bourgeois hierarchy is not clear enough. Some contemporary historians had tried to created other groupings of the bourgeois occupation in the seventieth to eightieth century. To be considered as a bourgeois, one had to own a real estate or property, own a business or have a career as a financial administrator at official organizations.
Meanwhile, some other had created another classification through the bourgeoisie occupations. The highest level of bourgeois was those classified as the noblesse de robe or those who worked as the administrator or judicial. The second level from the bourgeois group came from the lower clergy, as there would not be any mobility from lower to a higher level of clerical so they were classified as the professional bourgeoisie. The last group was made up of the intellectuals. However, since intellectuals at that time were comprised by both roturier and nobles, it was quite difficult to present the intellectuals as the nobles. The other group comes from the property and business owners. The business could be the wholesale merchants, industrial business, or commerce. Categorizing the occupation does not mean to seal the people into certain class, but it is mere to identify the range of their activity and to what level their occupation will correspond to. Normally, the people will move from one type to another according to their situation and opportunity.
Bourgeois and Education
In bourgeois society, not only occupation and possession of wealth, one of the essential parts in determining the group level was the intellectuality. The great concern of education came particularly from the bourgeois class, especially from the upper bourgeois. They would support themselves with education if it was financially affordable. Aiming to have a social improvement, a bourgeois family would spend their money to educate their children and in the future through education, it would allow them to receive the nobility or lift up the class.
To begin the discussion, it is important to be clear about the formal education system during the period of the eightieth and ninetieth century. Some division of formal education happened to almost the whole class of society. In the clergy, for instance, formal education was taken over by the Church and it was separated from the state system. Or, a majority of the West European countries at that time separated the pupils based on their society class. That way, the society could preserve the structure of their society.
It was the bourgeois that the great appreciation and valuation towards education came from. It was because the level of education might relate to economic activities as the main source of their wealth. They believed that education could be the commodity to economic growth and the development of the middle-class group. It was also because the bourgeois was convinced that the appreciation of the level of knowledge and skill was valuable in regard to the growing number of profession demand. The formal education was expected to nurture the technical skills and become the main force of economy development. Education was also the response of economic, demographic, and social changes.
By the mid of the ninetieth century, the growing number of students in some education institutions were recorded in most West European countries. The main aim of the primary school was not only to teach the students about the literacy, but also the social values. A century before that, the education trend was not only on the formal academic but also in the military. To open an opportunity in receiving social mobility to the nobility, there was a special education for the poor nobleman that allow them to compete with the bourgeois.
Having a career as an intellectual was one of a new trend during the eightieth century. The feeling that enlightenment was needed for the society came from some the bourgeois. They were also expected to bring a bigger change into the society and became the moral leaders. Some great intellectuals had become great examples of the class mobility, such as the Rousseau who was from the family of the moyenne or middle-class, Marmontel who started to pursue his education in the college and later became ‘a respectable second rate intellectual’, dan Voltaire who were from the lowest rank of French nobility.
Social Classes Comparison
Education, basically, was perceived as an important aspect of the middle and upper class during the era. However, the different of education for all social classes might be seen as it was divided into several parts. The most obvious different was the education institution. The noble class and the lower class students might not be able to study in the same school. Majorly, the highest class would receive education at some private schools. While for the working class, during the ninetieth century, although there were no tuition fee for the primary school for the poor or working class family in the Great Britain in particular, education was a new form of family burden, economically, since they need to provide school equipment such uniforms, pens, books, and so on. Thus, instead of pursuing better education until reaching secondary education, at least, which was considered as the luxury thing, the children from the working class were demanded to provide their own money by working in the early age. Some of them began to work at the age of twelve and some other might be even younger as they leave the school.
In contrary, the higher class of the society tend to be educated until reaching the highest level as they could. Different from the boys, education for girls in upper class was not as important as education for boys as they had to marry after turning mature. But, it happened slightly different in 1848. The growing number of intelligent women was initiated by the establishment of Queen’s college in London and later followed other public schools for girls.
During the seventieth to ninetieth century, the division of society class was obvious in the majority of European countries. Basically, there were three classes, the upper class consisted of the nobles and aristocrats, the middle class or bourgeois consisted of landowners and intellectuals, and lower class or working class consisted of the labor and the poor.
One of social value that grew within the bourgeois society was the devotion to education. Motivated by promising economic activities, the bourgeois would spend their wealth to fund the study for their children. They were conceived that education will allow them to experience the society mobility.
Comparing the way bourgeois valued education, especially formal education, to other classes was by observing how the family support their children to attend the school. In bourgeois society, a family would spend their money to go to school, meanwhile, in an elite family, education for girls was not important as they would marry soon after they reached their maturity. To lower or working class, education was not important because the children would be much useful if they worked and earned money for the family.
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