Bourgeois revolution

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Bourgeois revolution is a term used in Marxist theory to refer to a social revolution that aims to destroy a feudal system or its vestiges, establish the rule of the bourgeoisie, and create a bourgeois state.[1][2] In colonised or subjugated countries, bourgeois revolutions often take the form of a war of national independence. The Dutch, English, American, and French revolutions are considered the archetypal bourgeois revolutions,[3][4] in that they attempted to clear away the remnants of the medieval feudal system, so as to pave the way for the rise of capitalism.[1] The term is usually used in contrast to "proletarian revolution", and is also sometimes called a "bourgeois-democratic revolution".[5][6]

Theories of Bourgeois revolution[edit]

Starting in the late 18th century, the Bildungsbürger ("educated bourgeoise") class defined itself more on the basis of education than material possessions and thus great emphasis was laid upon the education of children.

According to one version of the two-stage theory, bourgeois revolution was asserted to be a necessary step in the move toward socialism, as codified by Georgi Plekhanov.[7][8] In this view, countries that had preserved their feudal structure, like Russia, would have to establish capitalism via a bourgeois revolution before being able to wage a proletarian revolution.[9][10] At the time of the Russian Revolution, the Mensheviks asserted this theory, arguing that a revolution led by bourgeoisie was necessary to modernise society, establish basic freedoms, and overcome feudalism, which would establish the conditions necessary for socialism.[9]

Neil Davidson believes that the establishment of democracy or the end of feudal relations are neither defining characteristics of bourgeois revolutions, but instead supports Alex Callinicos' definition of bourgeois revolution as being those that establish "an independent center of capital accumulation".[6]

Other theories describe the evolution of the bourgeoisie as not needing a revolution.[11] The German bourgeoisie during the 1848 revolution did not strive to take command of the political effort and instead sided with the crown.[12][13][14] Davidson attributes their behaviour to the late development of capitalist relations and uses this as the model for the evolution of the bourgeoisie.[15]

The goals of the Bourgeois revolution[edit]

According to the Marxist view, the tasks of the bourgeois revolution include:

Bourgeois revolutions in history[edit]

Bourgeois revolutions in the middle ages[edit]

Although with much less diffusion, some social movements of the European Late Middle Ages have also received the name of bourgeois revolution, in which the bourgeoisie begins to define itself in the nascent cities as a social class. Examples include the Ciompi Revolt in the Republic of Florence, Jacquerie revolts during the Hundred Years' War in France,[27] and Bourgeois revolts of Sahagún [es] in Spain.[28][29]

Bourgeois revolutions in the early modern period[edit]

The first wave of bourgeois revolutions are those that occurred within the early modern period and were typically marked by being driven from below by the petty bourgeoisie against absolutist governments.[6]

  • The German Peasants' War (1524–1525) has been labelled by later historians as an early attempt at a bourgeois revolution.[30]
  • The Eighty Years' War, also known as the Dutch revolution, (1566–1648)[3][12]
  • England English revolution (1640–1660)[3][4][6]
  • American revolution (1765–1791)[3][6]
  • French revolution (1789–1799)[31][3]

Bourgeois revolutions in the late modern period[edit]

The second wave of bourgeois revolutions are those that occurred within the late modern period and were typically marked by being led from above by the haute bourgeoisie.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Bourgeois Revolution". Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  2. ^ Johnson, Elliott; Walker, David; Gray, Daniel, eds. (2014). "Democracy". Historical Dictionary of Marxism (2nd ed.). Lanham; Boulder; New York; London: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 118. ISBN 978-1-4422-3798-8.
  3. ^ a b c d e Eisenstein (2010), p. 64, quoted in Davidson, Neil (2012). "From Society to Politics; From Event to Process". How Revolutionary Were the Bourgeois Revolutions?. Chicago, Illinois: Haymarket Books. pp. 381–382. ISBN 978-1-60846-067-0.
  4. ^ a b Callinicos 1989, pp. 113–171.
  5. ^ Wilczynski, Jozef, ed. (1981). "Bourgeois Revolution". An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Marxism, Socialism and Communism. London: Macmillan Press. p. 48. doi:10.1007/978-1-349-05806-8. ISBN 978-1-349-05806-8.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Davidson, Neil (May 2012). "Bourgeois Revolution and the US Civil War". International Socialist Review. No. 83. Center For Economic Research and Social Change.
  7. ^ Post, Charles (2019). "How Capitalist Were the 'Bourgeois Revolutions'?". Historical Materialism. Brill. 27 (3): 157–190.
  8. ^ Plekhanov, Georgi (1949) [1895]. The Bourgeois Revolution: The Political Birth of Capitalism – via Marxists Internet Archive.
  9. ^ a b "Stagism". Encyclopedia of Marxism. Retrieved 6 November 2018 – via Marxists Internet Archive.
  10. ^ Lane, David (22 April 2020). "Revisiting Lenin's theory of socialist revolution on the 150th anniversary of his birth". European Politics and Policy. London School of Economics.
  11. ^ Blackbourn, David. Economy and Society: A Silent Bourgeois Revolution. pp. 176–205. in Blackbourn & Eley (1984)
  12. ^ a b Hallas 1988, pp. 17–20.
  13. ^ Klíma 1986, pp. 93–94.
  14. ^ Blackbourn, David. Economy and Society: The shadow side. pp. 206–237. in Blackbourn & Eley (1984)
  15. ^ Davidson, Neil (2012). "Marx and Engels (2) 1847–52". How Revolutionary Were the Bourgeois Revolutions?. Chicago, Illinois: Haymarket Books. p. 144. ISBN 978-1-60846-067-0. In a world where most states have not yet experienced bourgeois revolutions, where most are even more economically underdeveloped than Germany, they too will give rise to "belated" bourgeoisies, the implication being that it is Germany rather than France that represents the likely pattern of bourgeois development.
  16. ^ Marx & Engels 1956, 8, p. 197.
  17. ^ Marx & Engels 1956, 16, p. 157.
  18. ^ Marx & Engels 1956, 37, p. 463.
  19. ^ Marx & Engels 1956, 8, p. 196.
  20. ^ Marx & Engels 1956, 22, pp. 235–236.
  21. ^ Elsenhans, Hartmut (2012). "Democratic revolution, bourgeois revolution, Arab revolution: The political economy of a possible success". NAQD. 29 (1): 51–60.
  22. ^ Marx & Engels 1956, 17, p. 337.
  23. ^ Marx & Engels 1956, 17, p. 592.
  24. ^ Heller 2006, Introduction pp. 2–4.
  25. ^ Marx & Engels 1956, 23, pp. 741–761.
  26. ^ Marx & Engels 1956, 17 p. 592.
  27. ^ Mollat, Michel [in French]; Wolff, Philippe [in French] (1970). Ongles bleus, jacques et ciompi - les révolutions populaires en Europe aux XIVe et XVe siècles [Ongles bleus, Jacquerie and Ciompi - popular revolutions in Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries] (in French). Calmann-Lévy.
  28. ^ Pastor de Togneri, Reyna [in Spanish] (1973). Conflictos sociales y estancamiento económico en la España medieval [Social conflicts and economic stagnation in medieval Spain] (in Spanish). Editorial Ariel.
  29. ^ Martín, José Luis. Historia de España [History of Spain (A society at war)]. Historia 16 (in Spanish). Vol. 4 - Una sociedad en guerra.
  30. ^ Bak, Janos (2022) [1976]. "'The Peasant War in Germany' by Friedrich Engels – 125 years later". In Bak, Janos (ed.). The German Peasant War of 1525. Routledge. pp. 93–99. doi:10.4324/9781003190950. ISBN 978-1-00-319095-0.
  31. ^ Heller (2006), Preface p. ix; Callinicos (1989), pp. 113–171; Sewell (1994), Introduction pp. 22–23
  32. ^ Modern World History Writing Group 1973a, p. 172.
  33. ^ Modern World History Writing Group 1973a, p. 233.
  34. ^ a b Klíma 1986, pp. 74–75.
  35. ^ Modern World History Writing Group (1973a), p. 255; Callinicos (1989), pp. 113–171; Hallas (1988), pp. 17–20; Klíma (1986), pp. 74–75
  36. ^ a b Modern World History Writing Group 1973a.
  37. ^ Klíma 1986, p. 77.
  38. ^ Modern World History Writing Group 1973b, p. 150.
  39. ^ Modern World History Writing Group 1973b, p. 130.
  40. ^ Modern World History Writing Group 1973b, p. 152.
  41. ^ Modern World History Writing Group 1973b, p. 160.
  42. ^ Zhang, Yuchun; Ma, Zhenwen (1976). 简明中国近代史 [A Concise Modern History of China] (in Chinese). Liaoning People's Publishing House. p. 301.
  43. ^ Modern World History Writing Group 1973b, p. 224.