In Defense of the Bourgeoisie

'Bourgeoisie' is a negative term.

As applied by Marxists and other progressive lefties, to be bourgeois is to be as close to evil incarnate as possible (if not evil incarnate itself). The bourgeoisie, in the Marxist imagination, is the class responsible for the colonization of the New World, the expansion of capitalism in Europe, North America, and the rest of the world, and the conquerors who have exploited Mother Earth and brought her to the brink of destruction. The bourgeoisie is also generally filial in nature, patriotic, and religious. In short, the bourgeoisie is everything that the left hates.

Among the other great lies that the left thrusts against the bourgeoisie, which is the middle class, is that they are enemies of 'democracy.'

Democracy has become the new sacred word for the left to wield as a battering ram against their opponents. They conceive themselves as the defenders of democracy and everyone they despise as threats to democracy. Those in the bourgeoisie, now, are “domestic terrorists,” “racists,” and “fascists” who threaten the very republic and its democratic ethos they gave rise to and have defended time and again through history.

James Burnham has become a hot topic for writers and intellectuals again because of his analysis of the “administrative state.” Among other things, Burnham also wrote back the 1960s of the dangerous precipice that Western Civilization faced -- which we see today. But one of his lesser-known works is The Machiavellians and, throughout his opus, he is also a staunch defender of middle-class capitalism and republicanism, something he saw as emanating from the bourgeois peoples that emerged in Europe and then spread to America.

One of the critiques of Burnham is that he simply offers an analysis of the plight we are in and offers no program to confront the march of suicidal liberalism and bureaucratic despotism stifling the energy and exceptionalism of middle-class ingenuity and spirit. This is an unfortunately limited understanding of Burnham. While it is true that Burnham offers no “conservative manifesto,” he was a staunch defender of what conservatives have long recognized as the beautiful essence of America and Western culture more generally: civil society, freedom of speech and assembly, constitutional liberties, entrepreneurism, and a decentralized mode of politics with a strong aversion to various forms of centralism.

The bourgeoisie class is the democratic peoples of America. Progressives know this which is why they speak the language of “the middle class” constantly while enacting policies meant to crush middle-class aspirations and dreams.

Civil society is rooted in free association and law and order. In the past few years, progressives have revealed how antagonistic they truly are toward civil society. Free association? That is just a front for white supremacy and bigotry. Law and order? That is just another manifestation of white supremacy, racism, and bigotry! COVID lockdowns, which are also antithetical to the vibrancy of civil society, were all the rage from progressive politicians and their fawning media lackeys determined to extinguish civil society and remake the ruins subservient to the federal Leviathan. (In the name of public safety, of course.)

In the attack on civil society, constitutional liberties have been regularly assailed and abused. Churches and other houses of worship have been closed and vandalized. Freedom of assembly has been rebuked as public health crises and “super spreader” events. Voicing frustration with the erosion of civil liberties also warrants de-platforming and banning on social media—with gleeful progressives cheering against those rascally middle-class Americans defending American values and liberties against tyranny.

The attack on businesses, especially small businesses—the quintessential emblems of the entrepreneurial spirit—is not accidental either. Once again progressives engage in their sleight of hand by claiming their policies are aimed at helping small businesses while engaging in business shutdowns, lockdowns, and impossible mandates that would cripple the real cornerstone of middle-class prosperity: small business ownership rather than corporate desk jobs. Not to mention burdensome inflation which is an unwritten tax that falls hardest on middle-class Americans. (But Joe Biden and his allies say they are not increasing taxes, so it must be true.)

The assault on civil society, constitutional liberties, and entrepreneurism is an effort to crush the spirit of liberty that motivates the middle class and its aspirations. A vibrant civil society, constitutional liberties that are fully exercised by the citizenry, and successful small businesses all have something in common that is antithetical to the progressive ideology: no need for centralized government and bureaucracy. What Burnham identified as the essence of middle-class values is what progressives need to eradicate for dependence on the new centralized state: independence from the federal government.

If civil society is healthy, people do not look to the federal government for assistance. If constitutional liberties are lived out by the people, there is no need to look for government rules and regulations to live by. If small businesses are booming and hiring, if more and more people embrace the entrepreneurial spirit, fewer and fewer people are dependent on the government’s parasitic tentacles. As such, progressives must destroy civil society, constitutional liberties, and small business entrepreneurism for their vision of totalizing government control over our lives to be consummated.

In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville noted that the spirit of democratic reforms came from the existing and aspirant middle class in the United States. These were the people who were most vigorously engaged in local democracy and devoted to the well-being of their towns and communities. Because these people took matters into their own hands and achieved independence from centralized authority, Tocqueville marveled at their independence and lack of “central government” in their lives.

Progressives, with their Marxist animosity toward the bourgeoisie, see the middle class as enemies of their Utopian serfdom. They do not want democracy. They want bureaucratic managerialism. They see themselves as the managers of society and the rest of us as the cogs, worker ants, and little people, deplorables, to be managed. Step out of line and you’re everything from a terrorist, fascist, or racist. In fact, democracy, as conceived by the new progressives, is just about doing what we say. When the bourgeoisie vote for Republicans, well, democracy is dangerous! So much for democracy.

America’s real democracy rests with the vibrancy of the bourgeoisie. The middle class is the backbone of America because they are the Americans who give so much for the rare reality in which we live: a society where we can aspire and dream to be more than serfs. But rather than have a vibrant middle class rising up to defend democracy and its values of liberty and independence from centralized totalitarians, progressives want a faux middle class—one created by the government and, therefore, entirely dependent on the government.

Bourgeois democracy is about individual liberty and a spirit independent of government control. It rests on the pillars of civil society, constitutional law and order, free association, and entrepreneurial success and growth. That spirit won a great victory in Virginia. And we ought to be supportive of it everywhere across America because the future of the United States rests on its continued success and vibrancy in an environment hostile to it.


Paul Krause is a writer, editor, and teacher. He is the author of The Odyssey of Love: A Christian Guide to the Great BooksThe Politics of Plato, and contributed to The College Lecture Today and the forthcoming book Diseases, Disasters, and Political Theory. He is the incoming editor of VoegelinView.

Image: National Portrait Gallery, London, via Picryl // public domain

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