On the criticism of bourgeoisization
Summary: The Bourgeoisification of the Proletariat is an ambiguous and a potentially misleading term. Bourgeoisification involves economic ascent, ideological alignment with the bourgeoisie, and political integration into the existing state. Ideological Bourgeoisification can occur at different levels, ranging from shifts in values and beliefs to the adaptation of proletarian values to conventional norms. The subjects of Bourgeoisification can be individuals within the working class, the working class as a whole, socialist movements, and their organizations and leaders. Economic ascent should not be equated with the Bourgeoisification of the proletariat. Ascent is when individuals move from one social class to another. Various types of ascent exist, including personal ascent, economic ascent, and ascent within the proletariat itself. These distinctions challenge the idea that ascent leads to ideological change. There are common misconceptions about the proletariat, including associating it solely with extreme poverty and moral degradation. Such misconceptions stem from a lack of sociopolitical understanding. Dependent wage labor and control over the means of production are not the sole origins of conflicting economic and social ideologies, as even high-ranking executives perform dependent wage labor. The working class has adopted various aspects of bourgeois culture, including consumption habits, clothing styles, and home furnishings. This influence becomes more apparent as income levels between industrial workers and the petty bourgeoisie converge. It’s challenging to completely escape the influence of bourgeois culture and societal values, as organized opposition to these values often replicates them in reverse. The illustrated press sometimes leans toward conservatism and narrow, petty-bourgeois ambition. There is criticism of the ritualization of mass demonstrations, with conventional slogans and responses being overused, potentially diminishing the impact of such events. The Free Thinkers' movement advocate freedom from religious constraints, but its own dogmatic tendencies are concerning. The working-class movement's political conservatism is linked to tangible political achievements, which are more substantial and objective than economic advancements. Political parties play a vital role in shaping the behavior and attitudes of the working class, and the influx of individuals with bourgeois values may influence proletarian class consciousness. Promoting class consciousness should involve loosening the grip of official ideology rather than fearing dilution, and rigid or dogmatic stances should be avoided. Leaders in the workers' movement face challenges that should be understood in detail when criticizing them.
The term "The Bourgeoisification of the Proletariat" is vague and potentially misleading, as it encompasses many different meanings and interpretations. The coupling of bourgeoisie and proletariat can create confusion. A detailed examination is needed of the phenomena associated with this concept. One needs to differentiate between various aspects of Bourgeoisification, including economic ascent, ideological alignment with the bourgeoisie, and political integration into the existing state.
Different levels of ideological Bourgeoisification exist, including shifts in values and beliefs, the adaptation of proletarian values to conventional norms, and the dogmatism of revolutionary thought. Potential subjects of Bourgeoisification include individuals within the working class, the working class as a whole, socialist movements, and their organizations and leaders. Bourgeoisification is possible through an influx of population segments with bourgeois values into the working class, leading to a discrepancy between the size of the working class and its revolutionary potential.
Ascent should not be equated with the bourgeoisification of the proletariat. Ascent is the process in which individuals move from one social class to another, typically from a lower to a higher class. When a person of proletarian origin enters a bourgeois social class, they are said to have undergone ascent. Bourgeoisification is wrongly applied to ascent, as historical examples show that individuals from various backgrounds, including the bourgeoisie, have risen in social status without being labeled as de-bourgeoisification. Why the term is associated specifically with the proletariat is unclear. Different types of ascent exist, including personal ascent (individuals moving up in society), economic ascent (improving one's financial situation), and ascent within the proletariat itself. The proletariat is not a homogeneous group but comprises various layers with differences in income, work conditions, and social protection. These differences are attributed to variations in skills, occupations, and levels of social security. The notion that ascent equates to the bourgeoisification of proletarians relies on a flawed understanding of the proletariat, which is not solely defined by economic conditions but also by class consciousness and social identity. Individuals who experience ascent often undergo changes in their values and beliefs. Assuming that ascent is always an indication of ideological change is troublesome. A common misunderstanding of the proletariat is that it’s often associated with extreme poverty and moral degradation. The proletariat is a historical and evolving social class, and such misconceptions stem from a lack of sociopolitical understanding.
Bourgeoisification is not an appropriate way to characterize the economic and social orders represented by the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Although dependent wage labor and control over the means of production exist, they should not be seen as the critical origins of conflicting economic and social ideologies. Even high-ranking executives and real owners perform dependent wage labor. The dominant role of banking and finance capital should not be overlooked. Bourgeoisification is often connected with the notion of becoming bourgeois. This is partly due to the connotations of the terms petty bourgeois and lumpenproletariat, which not only describe economic conditions but also personal lifestyles and moral values. The bourgeois individual is a societal and moral archetype, who, through economically productive labor, secures a stable material basis for life and gains social respect. This is contrasted with feudal lords who live off inherited rent and with Bohemian wanderers. A focus on immediate success can potentially undermine the ideological foundation of the workers' movement. This issue is common to all movements aiming to achieve a secure income. The working class has adopted various aspects of bourgeois culture, evident in everything from male choirs to society films, clothing styles, and home furnishings. Consumption habits are not solely expressions of individual taste but also influenced by societal factors. Even full-blooded proletarians are bound to the culture and civilization of their time. This becomes more apparent as the income levels of industrial workers and petty bourgeoisie become similar. In a bourgeois-capitalist society, even its opponents cannot completely avoid bourgeois life patterns and values. It's difficult to escape the influence of the dominant cultural and societal milieu. Organized opposition to bourgeois cultural values often ends up replicating those values in reverse. True escape from bourgeois culture would require complete abstention, which is challenging.
There is little concern for scholarly debates about what Marx actually taught. The focus is on the state of the socialist press, particularly the illustrated press, which occasionally leans too much towards conservatism and a narrow, petty-bourgeois ambition, differing more in its tendency than in its style from the bourgeois press. A certain form of conservatism emerged in the context of May Day and demonstrations. Conventional slogans and responses are overused in political demonstrations. Mass demonstrations have become ritualized, practiced more frequently than the public's enthusiasm can sustain. The Free Thinkers' movement advocated freedom from institutional religious constraints. The movement might be falling into its own dogmatic traps.
The working-class movement's political conservatism is grounded in tangible facts. The proletariat has achieved political successes in the realm of the state that are more visible and objectively sustainable than their economic achievements. Political parties play an essential role in shaping the behavior and attitudes of the working class. Any influx of formerly bourgeois-thinking elements into proletarian parties might, if not diverting the parties from their social goals, actually contribute to a strengthening of proletarian class consciousness. Promoting this process should involve loosening the grip of official ideology rather than fearing bourgeois dilution. Inflexible or dogmatic stances are dangerous. Although constitutional loyalty is important, idealizing the current state form to the point of seeing it as eternal is not to be advised. Excessive compromises in politics should be avoided. The moral burden falls on the shoulders of responsible leaders. Tensions exist in political tactics. Sometimes the interests of mechanisms and leadership collectives are prioritized over the best interests of the proletarian struggle. It’s important to have a nuanced understanding when criticizing the leaders of the workers' movement, emphasizing the challenges they face and the responsibility that comes with their roles.
Geiger, T. (1931), Zur Kritik der Verbürgerlichung, in: Die Arbeit 7, pp. 534-553, Berlin: Theodor Leipart.