We can say that the bourgeois ideology is that which the bourgeoisie possess. Although we must highlight other important and noteworthy aspects, such as its origin, evolution, traits, critics and detractors.
It is a very particular type of political ideology. It is applied to a very specific social group, therefore it does not fit within the general ideologies that we know as conservatism, progressivism, liberalism, socialism, etc.
It is also an ideology of the past, that is, it can continue to be used but it obtained all its meaning at the time in which it was developed. Since the 20th century, ideologies have evolved and their classification is very diverse. Although, if we made the effort to fit it in Nolan’s diagram, it would be found within the liberal right.
Origin and evolution of bourgeois ideology
To see the origin of bourgeois ideology we must look for the very origin of the bourgeoisie.
This was born in the late Middle Ages, that is, in its most advanced part. It does so as a consequence of the establishment of artisans and merchants in the cities. The common people were no longer dedicated exclusively to the countryside, which created groups different from the peasantry but with common characteristics, such as belonging to a low status and a low standard of living and purchasing power.
With the development and accumulation of capital of this new group of merchants, these people are gaining more and more power. To the point of being the ruling class and promoting historical events, such as bourgeois revolutions.
Its most important milestone was that of the French Revolution, thus ending the Old Regime and giving way to the Contemporary Age.
From this fact there was to be a clear differentiation within the non-aristocratic population. On the one hand, the bourgeoisie would be a powerful and well-to-do group and, on the other, the workers and peasants would be the poor and humble citizens.
It is at this time, and during the nineteenth century, that the bourgeois ideology will fully develop.
Characteristics of bourgeois ideology
Bourgeois ideology, like any other, has a series of relevant characteristics and features.
Among these, the following stand out:
- Individualism: The value of the individual is above the collective. The individual has full power to think and act for himself. And, furthermore, it must not be subject to the will of the crowd.
- Private property: It is one of its main features. It is necessary that individuals have full access to private property and that it is protected by law. Well, this is a direct consequence of effort and work.
- Free trade: Capital, fortune and equity are made through investments and there are no restrictions on trade. The sale of goods and adding value to the production process is what creates wealth.
- Rights and freedoms: The French Revolution demanded an end to the despotic use of power by the monarch. Thus opening a new paradigm of rights and freedoms.
- Social Mobility: During the Middle Ages, the social stratification system was insurmountable. The whole life was spent in the stratum of birth. With the bourgeoisie appear social classes and their mobility between them.
- Division of powers: The new liberal state also broke with the absolutist trait of the unification of all state power in one person. Montesquieu proposed the current division between legislative, executive and judicial.
- Defense of the nation-state: He promoted the emergence of modern nation-states, arguing that sovereignty fell into the hands of the citizens of their territory.
- Capitalism: In short, the bourgeoisie demanded capitalism as an economic system.
Bourgeois ideology can be summed up in the values that capitalism and liberalism inspire.
Criticisms of bourgeois ideology
The greatest critic of bourgeois ideology was the philosopher Karl Marx and, therefore, the whole of Marxism. Although so were other ideologies such as anarchism.
Marx analyzed that the wealth of the bourgeois class was realized by the exploitation of the rest of the population. In other words, the bourgeoisie as the ruling class exploited the workers, who were the bulk of the population. This was done through surplus value, which is the difference between the value of a product and the value of work. That is, the difference between the final value and what the employer pays to the worker.
The development of Marxist and communist ideology led to numerous revolutions and the emergence of socialist and communist states throughout the 20th century. The main enemy of these regimes were the owners and entrepreneurs, in addition to the aristocracy.
These regimes were the USSR, Mao’s China, and the Castro’s Cuba, among many others.
From more moderate positions on the left, such as social democracy, the ideology of the bourgeoisie was also criticized. Hence the emergence of the welfare state and its extensive network of social assistance.