Thoughts on “bourgeois society” – its effects, problems, and reactions toward it

Recently, I mentioned that much of my life has been a reaction to and against the condition and problems of bourgeois society.  In many ways, my life, and the attitudes I have developed, are based in the problems bourgeois society has created.  This is true for many people in Western and modern society, which is derived from it.  I think that there is great truth to this.  As I thought about it I said some things such as:


The term “bourgeoisie” is a French term that refers to people living in a city (a Germanic equivalent would be “burgher”).  The term “bourgeois” would refer to something like the ways or manners of the “bourgeoisie”.  Over the years these term has had many connotations, often referring to the merchant or middle class in one way or another.  In this article tend to use it in a particular way.

First of all, I speak of “bourgeois society” which is referring to a particular way or style of society, living, and viewing the world.  I seem to think that this society began to really take form in Western Europe particularly in the 1700’s with the rise of the merchant or middle class who grew in power and influence.  As a result, they gained enough money to imitate the nobility and upper classes, which were viewed as the “highest in society”.  In addition, they also developed more power and influence, particularly as the consumer and industrial world grew.  Some common themes of “bourgeois society” include:

  • The idea of “common people” rising in power – this is a result of their origin in the merchant and middles classes but it is supported by Christianity (“the last shall be the first”) and democracy (“people rule”)
  • Self-righteousness – this is primarily because of the association with Christianity and democracy, as described above
  • Money – an emphasis on money plays a big part in “bourgeois society” as it is instrumental in their rise and power
  • Power – in some respects, the “bourgeoisie” basically “usurped” power from the nobility and upper classes which, in a way, makes it something like a “take over”
  • Status – their money, rise, and power made them able to imitate and take the place of the nobility and upper classes 
  • “Acting as if they are important” – this originally appeared as acting like nobility but has changed through the years
  • Achievement – there is great emphasis on achievement as it figured prominently in their development and growth in power

These all came together, in a unique way, and created a particular style, culture, or society that revolved around these themes.  I tend to believe that it has practically became a belief system, almost to the point of a religion, which is why it has persisted for so long.  In some ways, the beliefs of “bourgeois society” replaced and filled the void of the failing Christian belief which was growing in the 1700’s.  This probably accounts for why there are many Christian elements in it (such as described with the idea of the “common people” rising in power above).  It may also account for its self-righteous qualities as well.  If this is true it would mean that “bourgeois society” is “somewhat religious” in orientation.  For many people it does dominate and motivate life on an incredible scale.  It determines their ideals, their aspirations, and their dreams.  Some people will go through great stress, anguish, and effort to pursue these ideals, almost to the point of killing themselves.  That shows the power this society has over people.

As the 1800’s went on the attitudes of “bourgeois society” would spread to more and more of the population.  By the late 1800’s it was a common attitude in almost all levels of life.  Victorian society is largely a result of the attitudes of bourgeois society.  This has carried on down to modern life.  One could very well say that modern life is a form of bourgeois life and is based on it.

Historical development

Looking at it on a greater, and more detailed, viewpoint it seems, to me, that bourgeois society is something that has developed over a thousand years and went through phases, each phase offering its own qualities.  These phases, and some of their qualities, are:

  1. Germanic invasion of central Europe – about 300-1100.  This created a “warrior ethic”, which is the beginning of bourgeois society.  One effect of this is that it established the theme of achievement in bourgeois society.  The glorification of the warrior would also create the theme of individualism, of worshiping what the individual can do, which has carried on down to today.
  2. Crusades/Christianity – about 1100-1600.  This took the “warrior ethic” and gave the the image of the warrior as representing authority (the church).  In this way, the warrior was part of a “greater story”, what he did represented more than himself.
  3. The knight/nobility – about 1100-1600.  Many warriors (knights) were given, as payment, land for their services.  This would make many warriors (knights) land owners and turn many into nobility.  This fact would became the basis of much of the attitudes surrounding the bourgeois society.  It established the idea of “moving upward in society” and the theme of “becoming nobility”.  Its an early version, in some respects, of the “rags to riches” story which, in a way, is at the heart of bourgeois story.  More specifically, the knight is an issue of upward social mobility and the nobility is an issue of status.  These themes would figure significantly in bourgeois society.  In this way, we can see that bourgeois society is largely based in the knight during the middle ages and early modern period.
  4. The merchant class – about 1400-1900.  The growing merchant class would be able to compete with the knight/nobility beginning in the late middle ages.  Their main “power” was money.  As a result, it established the issue of money as an issue in bourgeois society.  In addition to that, it establishes the issue of what money can buywhich would later turn into a strong tendency to materialism.
  5. The “new nobility” – about 1600-1800.  During this time people could “buy their way into the nobility”.  It was not uncommon that a person could “purchase” a job or position in the government even making themselves nobility (this is one way the government generated revenue!).  This established the theme that anyone could rise in status.
  6. The middle class – about 1800-today.  The rise of the middle class allowed many people to imitate the “new nobility” because of their new wealth.  This established the theme that anyone could imitate nobility, the upper class, or people with money.
  7. Mass society (mass communication/consumerism/technology) – about 1800-today.  After the Napoleonic wars there developed what can be described as a “mass society”.  This is largely a result of mass communication, consumerism, and technology.  This made it so that just about anyone, even the lower classes, could at least “act important” to some extent.  In other words, it allowed the rest of the population to be able to basically do what only the middle class did.  But, more importantly, it created the issue of mass mentality.  By this, I mean that it developed a slavish quality to it, everyone blindly followed the tendency to imitate, and that people tended to do things in a mass.  In this way, it as if turned everyone into something like sheep.

We can see that these phases contributed a number of themes which are very prominent in bourgeois society:

  • Achievement
  • Individualism
  • Representing authority
  • Upward social mobility
  • Status
  • Money and what money can buy
  • That anyone could rise in status 
  • That anyone could imitate nobility, the upper class, or people with money
  • Mass mentality

All of these, through the decades and centuries, would become ingrained into Western European society affecting its overall culture, outlook, attitudes, etc.  The point being that we are looking at a process that has gone on for centuries and is rooted in many aspects of society.  This makes it, really, more than a “social movement”.  It is an aspect of culture and has an almost religious quality to it.  Because of this, bourgeois society is very influential and has had great impact.

In addition, because these are associated with deep themes in the culture (religions, status, etc.) they give bourgeois society more than just a “way of living”.  To me, some of the unique qualities of bourgeois society is that it is deeply ingrained in the society and has an almost religious quality to it.  I often think that this has a lot to do with a number of things:

  • The “warrior ethic”, which gives great meaning to the individual actions.
  • The crusades, which established the knight with the church giving it a far deeper quality than it would otherwise have.
  • The nobility as a ruling class and protector of society.
  • Mass mentality, which makes everyone “follow along”.

Without these things bourgeois society would probably of been something that “came and went”.  In other words, these things have deeply entrenched it into society and, accordingly, make it persist, despite the problems it causes.  In my opinion, this makes bourgeois society very unique in the world.

The “warrior ethic” and its influence

A big trait of bourgeois society the tendency to try to be “something you’re not”.  This creates qualities of phoniness, hypocrisy, shallowness, and so on.  This is a quality that are often mentioned, and condemned, in bourgeois society.  I tend to feel that these began to appear with the “warrior ethic” origin of bourgeois society.

Basically, one of the ways that warriors and soldiers deal with the life and death situation of combat is to create a “false image” of themselves, usually as being more powerful than they really are.  This would help them deal with difficult situations and deal with the stress of battle.  I often call this the “Munchausen Effect” after Baron Munchausen who was known for fabricating tall and fantastic stories (see my article, “Thoughts on the ‘Munchausen Effect’ and the military – the power and dilemma of illusion“).  It seems, to me, that this attitude was carried on down to through the centuries primarily through through the knight and nobility which, remember, were warriors at one time.  Even after they ceased their warrior role, these attitudes persisted in their attitudes, identity, and way of life.  When the common people started to take up the bourgeois attitude, which came from them, it would persist down to them as well.  In this way, the common people “inherited” the warrior attitude, and its “Munchausen Effect”, even though they are not warriors at all and never were.  To put it another way, bourgeois society is rooted in the attitudes of a “war-based” society and, accordingly, maintains much of the attitudes of that society.

Interestingly, the attitude of the “Munchausen Effect”, and its effects on people, were noted very early, particularly when the role of the knight and war was declining in importance, particularly in the 1500’s.  In fact, it was so common that it was made fun of in a number of  books that became quite popular:

  •  “The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha” by  Miguel de Cervantes, published in two volumes, in 1605 and 1615,
  • “Baron Munchausen’s Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia” by Rudolf Erich Raspe, 1785.

Both of these were caricaturizing the “Munchausen Effect” attitude that was continuing to persist at the time.  In a way, it is a mocking of a “warrior code that many people continue to maintain but which has become out-of-date”.  In both of these books the main character is noted for his fanciful tales and interpretations of things which originate from the warrior tendency to fabricate a “false image”.  This same quality is a defining trait of bourgeois society.  Its for this reason that I often joking call bourgeois society the “Quixote society” or “Munchausen society”.  Bourgeois society is basically behaving like these two characters.

The appearance of bourgeois society in different countries

The appearance, and manner, of bourgeois society varies from country to country, and even from time to time.  Some countries which have developed its own quality of bourgeois society include:

  1. Germany.  I am unclear about bourgeois society in Germany.  This is probably because of the conditions that Germany has been in.  Before the late 1800’s Germany was not really a single country but made up of different political entities.  Each entity developed its own style of doing things and, as a result, we cannot really say that there is a one style of bourgeois society for Germany as a whole . . . each place was different.  With the Nazi’s, in particular, Germany became more unified but it was controlled more by the state.  After WWII Germany became very consumer oriented.  But, from what I have seen, it appears that before the end of WWII bourgeois society in Germany primarily appeared through an emphasis on achievement and social status and seemed to only been seen only minimally in the lower classes or common people (that is, it seemed more “artistocratic”) .  After WWII it was based more in money and consumer society and seeped down into the common people.
  2. France.  It seems that the qualities of the bourgeois society was largely seen in the “new nobility” and some of the merchant classes primarily (that is, it more reflected attitudes of the rich).  It didn’t seem to seep down into the common people and lower classes all that much.  This changed, though, after WWII where, like Germany, it seemed down into the common people.  It seems that what is often called “bourgeois society”, in France, is usually referring to a consumer society.
  3. England.  Unlike France, the English version seems to of seeped down to more levels of society.  There is often a more active effort, on the part of the common people, to try to “pretend” that they are nobility than in other countries, though.  This, it seems to me, appears to be a result of “Royal Emulation” (see below) where the common people emulated the nobility and royalty.
  4. The U.S.  The qualities I describe in this article largely reflect the U.S. form of bourgeois society.  The U.S. form of bourgeois society is just a continuation of the English form, but stronger and more prevalent in almost all levels of society.  In some respects, the ideals of the U.S. are bourgeois in origin so that we could call the U.S. the “bourgeois country” of the world.

One thing that is somewhat prevalent is that there was a big change after WWII as a result of the rise of consumer society.  This caused many bourgeois attitudes and mentalities to seep down into the common people and lower classes.  In this way, we could probably call post WWII consumers society the “popular bourgeois society”.

England, it seems to me, has developed a unique association with the nobility that has given a unique quality to English bourgeois society which, of course, would be carried on down to the U.S.  I tend to think it originates in Anglo-Saxon society.  Basically, with the Christian conversion there developed an unique attitude about the common people and nobility.  Christianity preached that we were all sinners.  The original pagan view of the nobility tended to view them as “Holy” or somehow closely associated with God.  As a result, the nobility would be viewed as being “close to God” and, therefore, “saved”.  The common people, on the other hand, are not “close to God” and are therefore sinners and “must be saved”.  In this way, this developed a viewpoint where the nobility is “good” and the common people are “bad”, which persists down to today.  This created a tendency, in the common people, of wanting to emulate nobility or be like them in English society.  By being like them they see themselves as being “saved”, so to speak.  I speak of this as “Royal Emulation”.  This tendency gives the imitation of nobility a unique, religious, and social significance that is not seen anywhere else.

The Norman Invasion, which brought the feudal type society of the Normans, and many other problems, greatly upset this image of nobility in English society.  That is to say, the nobility was no longer acting “Holy” and “saved” in the common peoples eyes.  This has created a great dilemma of viewing nobility, and authority in general.  It can be summed up as “the nobility is supposed to be saved but why aren’t they acting like they’re saved?”  This has created a great doubt and contempt for authority and many other bad feelings.  These attitudes are very dominant and prevalent qualities in English and American societies down to today.  Its one of the reasons why politics, and the themes of authority, are so “touchy” in these societies.  I also believe its why there are so many problems with politics and authority in these countries as well.

But, more importantly, it shows that, in English and American society, the tendency to imitate nobility hides a darker side behind it, of a frustration and conflict with authority.  In other words, they are trying to emulate and imitate what they, deep down, have a conflict with.  This “hidden contempt”, it seems to me, is one reason why people greatly condemn, and often grow to hate, bourgeois society when they become frustrated and disillusioned with it.

Qualities of bourgeois society

Bourgeois society has qualities such as these:

Attitudes originating from imitating nobility

  • A “want-to-be” attitude.  Because this society originated in the rising merchant classes gaining more money it allowed them to “dress themselves up” as if they were nobility which were viewed as the “betters” in society.  In some respects, this attitude is the base of this whole society.  It is also the origin for some of the traits described below.
  • A “brown-nosing” attitude.  Since they are trying to be like the nobility they tend to be brown-noser’s and “suck up” to things . . . they’ll do anything to get ahead.
  • An “upstart” and “social climber” quality.  Since they tend to try to be like their “betters” they often develop this “upstart” or “social climber” quality.
  • They tend to try to be somebody they aren’t.  Many develop views of themselves that are not true in their pursuit of the better social image.
  • A tendency to blindly imitate things like social fads or ideals.  For some people this becomes a way of life.
  • A worship, preoccupation, and obsession over ideals.  A person is often measured by how well they stack up to these ideals.  A person who does the ideal is “favored” over one that does not.
  • A need to adhere to a specific “image” Much of this society is based in seeking this “image”, almost as if it were god.
  • A tendency to be class or status conscious.  In many cases, this can become almost obsessional and a motive for some peoples lives.
  • A preoccupation with “measuring people”.  They tend to find ways to determine who is better than another.  Sometimes, its things like who wins or makes the most money.  But it has even gone into what seems like “official” or even “scientific” measurement.  A good example are thing such as IQ and grades, which many of them tend to believe as if it were an act of God, particularly if they score high.  In reality, this mentality is just a continuation of their preoccupation with status.
  • A preoccupation with following “official” views.  The “image” they quest after is an “official” image, meaning that it has an authority.  In actuality, it is the authority found in the “image” that they seek.  The presence of this authority gives it an “official” quality, so to speak.  As a result, they seek after, and emulate, “official” views.  In many ways, they take the point of view, “if it sounds official then its correct”.
  • There is an emphasis where things must be done the “proper way” This “proper way”, of course, must follow the pattern of the “image” and “official” views.  They set what is “proper” and their brown-nosing attitude makes them have to do what is “proper”.
  • A tendency to favoritism.  They favor people who emulate the “image”, who “measure up” to what they view as “better”, who take the “official” views, and do things the “proper way”.  They will often praise these people and give them special privilege.  Sometimes, they will almost worship these people.  If a person does not emulate these qualities then they are typically treated as if they don’t exist.
  • A preoccupation or overvaluation of “honors”, achievements, awards, and such.  These things can include things like good grades, being on the “honor role”, winning first place, various “impressive” titles, the fact that you climbed a mountain, and so on.  They’ll take these things almost as if they were signs from god.  I’ve seen cases where an “honor” places a person so high above everyone else that everyone else is treated like garbage.  They’ll even get special privileges, entitlements, and such, that no one else does because of it.  People will even treat them better.  I’ve even watched how the people who actually “do things” are swept to the side, like they were nothing, because someone else, who actually didn’t do anything, happened to have an “honor” or some thing viewed as “officially accepted”.  I’ve even seen how they will get the credit for what the other person did!

Attitudes originating from their origin in the merchant class

  • An emphasis on money.  This is a result of the fact that it is based on the wealth developed by the merchant class.  As a result, this society is firmly rooted in money and what money can buy.
  • An emphasis on materialism.   There is a tendency where they emphasize the things they have and this is often looked at seriously.  In some cases, this is used as a means to determine who’s “better”.
  • A worship of achievement.  Much of the wealth was created by the fact that one “achieved”.  As a result, this trait is worshiped to this day by this society.
  • A worship of success and winning.  Some people will make this their whole life.  In some cases, it will be used as to determine something like a scale to determine who is “above” another.
  • A tendency to be overly competitive Sometimes, relationships with people is based wholly on competition so that the relationship is based in “who’s better”.
  • A very opportunistic point of view.  They seek any opportunity to “get ahead”, particularly if it means getting ahead of another person.
  • They tend to put emphasis on being better than other people.  For some people, this becomes a major motive in life.
  • A tendency to take a “dog eat dog” orientation.  The quest for money, and status, often creates an attitude where they will do anything to get it.

Effects of bourgeois society and life

The attitudes caused by the bourgeois society and life tend to cause a number of effects.  Some of these include:

  • A tendency to be “rigid” and formal.  Since this whole society is based in trying to seek an “image”, a person tends to develop an attitude of self-abandon, of relinquishing ones self for this other image.  This creates a coldness, in a person, which makes one “rigid” and formal in quality.
  • A lack of spontaneity and “life”.   The overly “rigid” quality of this society tends to stifle any spontaneity and life in people.
  • A sheep mentality The obsessive need to follow ideals and an “image” tends to create a “drone-like”, robot, or sheep quality in people.  In actuality, bourgeoisie society is a sheep mentality.
  • A tendency to mass mentality.  The sheep mentality creates a strong mass mentality quality in this society.  As part of this quality is the tendency to mass hysteria or mass mania that is seen in this society.
  • A strong self-consciousness Being focused on ones “image”, personal achievement, etc. there is a tendency for them to be very self-conscious and aware of themselves.  This can be to such an extent that it can go reach the point that it represses them.
  • A tendency to artificiality or “phoniness”.  Being that this society is based in a “want-to-be” attitude they are basically acting like “something they’re not”.  This causes a tendency for them to artificiality or “phoniness”.
  • A tendency to hypocrisy.  Since they pursue an “image” they tend to think they are the “image”.  The problem is that they seldom match the “image”.  As a result, there is an inconsistency between what they think they are and what they really are.  This tends to make them very hypocritical.
  • An absence of any “deep belief” . . . the life-view is shallow and empty.  Since their life is in seeking an “image” they tend to look at life in a shallow way, seldom developing any sort of a “deep belief” in life.  This is often one of the first qualities noticed.
  • A tendency to arrogance and self-righteousness.  This can become quite strong in people who feel confident that they have “accomplished” the bourgeois image . . . the more confident they feel the more arrogant and self-righteous they become.  But, overall, many people in bourgeois society will develop these attitudes to some extent.
  • A tendency to contempt of authority and society.  Once a person becomes disillusion and confused with bourgeois society its not uncommon that there develops a great contempt for it, and all authority, even to the point of hatred.  This can create a tendency to “endlessly rebelling” against it, to “abandon” it, to despise it and all it represents.
  • A tendency to boredom and apathy.  The empty bourgeois life tends to create a life that is somewhat empty and without meaning.  This often appears as a boredom or a lack of interest in life.  This can sometimes lead to a depressive or apathetic quality.  For some people, this can be so strong that it becomes a problem in their life.
  • A tendency for society to be a “rat race”.  With everyone clamoring for status, achievement, and money its inevitable that society would become something like a war between people, each trying to “outdo” everyone else.


Bourgeois society is rooted in the behavior of a small group of people and their desire to imitate their “betters” in society.  In this way, this society does not sprout from existing realities and conditions but, rather, from the greed of some people who have developed a power.  It has developed a great economic and social power because of a number of qualities:

  • Individualism and achievement.  This puts emphasis on and inspires people to do things.
  • Social status.  This gives it a social power and influence.
  • Money.  This gives it economic power.
  • Consumerism/mass mentality.  This exposes bourgeois society to people on almost all levels.  In this way, it as if “ropes in” the bulk of the population.
  • Industrialization/technology.  This has created an economic system that infiltrates and affects just about everything, even our everyday life.

Its these different qualities which have made it so powerful and given it such influence.  In fact, it has become more than a power.  It has become a “reality”.  By this I mean that it is something that everyone is exposed to and that has infiltrated into everything.  This makes it something that is always “there” in our life, in some way or another.  As a result, everyone tends to believe it, at least to some extent.  In this way, it becomes a “reality” that impacts all of us.  It dictates, or has influence, to the world around us, whether we want it to or not.  In some respects, the problem with bourgeois society is that it has so much power.

But this is a power and reality that becomes imposed onto almost all the people.  For those who do not believe it, relate to it, or cater to it, this can cause problems.  Its a power and reality on such a scale that it dominates and offers little other pathway or direction (“its the bourgeois way or the highway”, so to speak).  Because of this, conflicts caused by bourgeois society are often caused by its incredible power and reality.  In fact, I tend to feel that much of the complaints and attacks toward the “power of government”, that we’ve seen these past two centuries, is really referring to bourgeois society . . . the government is just an easily identifiable “target” to attack.  This would mean that all this commotion about democracy, freedom, tyranny, and all that is not about government at all . . . its about the power and reality of bourgeois society and its effects on us.  I feel that there is a lot of truth in this.

Common responses to the power and reality of bourgeois society include:

  • Rebellion
  • Contempt of society
  • Going your own way away from society
  • Apathy
  • Developing a self-righteous cause

When you have a great power and reality hanging over you, like bourgeois society, these are about the only responses a person can make.


Overall, bourgeois society is insufficient as a culture and a society.  It fails on many levels of human life.  Much of this, I think, is because it is based in the pursuing of an “image”, an abstract idea which is praised and sought.  In this way, it is not based in the human world or human reality.

In some respects, bourgeois society is based in a “pie in the sky” mentality.  It tends to lead to an attitude of idealism, of pursuing the ideal (the “image”) as the motive and pinnacle of life.  Because of this, there often becomes points of view of “things should be this way”, “this is the proper way”, etc.  A person is often “measured” by how they stand up this this ideal.  Many people will kill themselves trying to follow this ideal as well, suffering great anguish and despair as a result.

But, bourgeois society is the only society that is offered to us.  It is all there is.  There are no alternatives, no options.  Because of this, its failings come upon all of us.  There are some, though, who are not bothered by it and, in fact, thrive in it.  Most people, I think, feel at least some adverse effect by it.  Most of us will try to follow its ideals until it begins to fail us.  But how we respond depends a lot on how much its failed us, our character, and similar things.


Once the failure of bourgeois society takes place in a person it tends to evoke a reaction.  It appears in different ways.  It seems that a lot of the personal and social problems, of the last 200 years or so, have some basis in the failure of bourgeois society.  In fact, one could probably say that much of the problems of modern life is rooted in the failure of bourgeois society.

It appears that the males response is different than the females as a result of their different characters.

Male response

Some common qualities that the failure of bourgeois society creates in males include:

  • Despair
  • A disconnectedness 
  • An artificiality
  • Alienation and dehumanization
  • Confusion and feeling lost
  • Meaninglessness 
  • Boredom 
  • React against power – contempt, outrage, anger, etc.
  • Mental problems – stress, depression, neurosis, etc.
  • Social problems – social tension, bias, favoritism, etc.

These qualities are often spoken of by males and in many different ways and forms.  In fact, I’d say that they are qualities that have become a part of most males lives in bourgeois society.  For some males, its just a quality that “hangs there” but, for others, it can lead to a a major life crisis.

The qualities described above often evoke responses which include:

  • An attempt at abandoning the bourgeois life and “reality”, at least in some way, and often seeking another society, belief system, or way to be
  • A seeking to be more “genuine” and true to themselves
  • Rebelling against society
  • Seeking refuge in smaller “social groups”, such as friends and family

This often creates a tendency in males to “drop out” of society.  I often call this the “male exodus” (see my article “Thoughts on “failing” boys and males “dropping out”: “the male exodus” . . . another account of the fight against dehumanization???“).  Many of us males have become disinterested in society because of the effects of bourgeois society . . . we really don’t have that much interest in it and don’t really want to be a part of it.  In other words, bourgeois society tends to make males want to drop out of it!  It seems that many males have to be “coaxed” into staying in society.  This, interestingly, often seems to be various forms of “toys”, gadgets, or diversions.  I tend to believe that the male “dropping out” of society – the “male exodus” – is actually a crisis nowadays (its another one of those “hidden crisis” no one acknowledges).

My observation is that the male reaction tends to be something like a spectrum:

  • They follow along with it – this usually means it suits them in some way
  • They become “Mr. Agree-all” – they agree whether they like it or not
  • They feel its adverse effects and learn to deal with it – such as frustration, despair, etc.
  • They feel lost and confused or don’t know what to think
  • They feel contempt
  • They rebel
  • They turn away from society

A lot of how they respond depends on their character, their situation, the condition of the times, and so on.

The female

The female response seems to primarily be one of following the dictates and ideals of bourgeois society, often to the point of enslaving themselves to it.  Bourgeois society has a quality with it that literally “sucks” females into it.  In fact, it seems to me that bourgeois society has devastated the female and femalehood for this reason.  In some respects, its turned the female into a “puppet” to trend, fad, social ideals, and such.  To go even further, for some females, they become so enslaved by it all that they literally “lose their mind” to it, so that social trend, fad, social ideals, etc. becomes their mind and replaces it.  This phenomena has caused nothing but problems for females for the past two hundred years and more.  I would even venture to say that it is a significant contribution to many female problems in these recent several centuries.

Because females tend to enslave themselves to bourgeois society, they often feel enslaved or controlled (or that they don’t have control).  The problem with this is that they tend to blame other people for this “enslavement”.  In my experience, the male is usually blamed first, then society is blamed . . . but they never blame themselves!  In this way, females often tend to feel these things:

  • They feel controlled, enslaved, threatened, etc.
  • They play the “blame game” and blame it on someone or something else
  • They see themselves as blameless and see themselves as “pure” or without fault

This has always struck me as somewhat comical.  Many females willingly, without any prompting, enslave themselves to the dictates of bourgeois society, following its every beckon and whim.  This causes problems for them after a period of time making them feel enslaved and controlled.  They then find someone or something to blame for it.  Once they find it they give them the blame and, accordingly, fashion themselves as “innocent”.  But the whole thing is caused by their own tendency to be enslaved by bourgeois society, something no one forced them to do!  Its sort of funny . . . but its really not all that funny.  I rank this as a serious problem.  From what I have seen, its eating the female up.

Bourgeois society tends to make females develop many of the bourgeois traits described above, such as:

  • A “want-to-be” attitude
  • A “brown-nosing” attitude
  • A tendency to imitation
  • A tendency to be someone they aren’t
  • A preoccupation with social status
  • A tendency to follow fads, trends, social ideals, etc.
  • A tendency where everything must be done the “proper” way

These tendencies often become very pronounced in the female.  In some sense, one could say that there develops a “sucking up to society” quality in many females.  This often becomes an obsession which preoccupies many females whole lives, in one way or another.  For many females in bourgeois society its not a matter of obsession but the extent of the obsession.  This obsession tends to adversely affect them.  Some of the effects of this include things such as:

  • They lose control over their lives.  
  • They feel “vulnerable”.  Giving up their lives (and minds) to bourgeois society, they as if “expose” themselves to society making them feel “open” and vulnerable.  This can make them feel insecure and “frightened” of things.  Oftentimes, they begin to become oversensitive and over reactive to things.
  • They lose their “mind”.  As I said above, many will so enslave themselves in bourgeois society that they give up their mind to it so that it becomes their mind.
  • They lose their identity.  As they let bourgeois society enslave them it takes over their identity and the identity of the female.  In bourgeois society the female identity is determined by bourgeois society, with its trends, social ideals, and such.  It is NOT determined by the female.
  • They lose “female society”.  Since female identity gets lost in bourgeois society, so does “female society”.  What I mean by this is that they lose that part of society which caters to, and includes, all the females and which stands a part from the males.  With its loss the female-as-a-group fades and dies, which it has done.  Nowadays, the female no longer has a distinct “society” to belong to.  It is now replaced by social trend, fad, social media, and so on.

The net result of these is an undermining of the female and femalehood.  In this way, the female becomes a victim of her own obsession and slavish mentality in bourgeois society.

The influence of the self

In both male and female we see that there is a sense of being helpless to the power of bourgeois society.  The difference in the response, it seems, tends to revolve around the self:

  • The male, who tends to have a stronger sense of self, will struggle with his self’s reaction to bourgeois society . . . he will rebel, go into despair, become “Mr. Agree-all”, etc..
  • The female, who tends to have a weaker self, tends to lose themselves in bourgeois society and get “lost” in it and lose hold of who they are.


When people feel the failure of bourgeois society it seems several themes are often mentioned in one way or another:

  • That society is lacking, failing, “sick”, insane, and so on . . . basically, there’s a sense that “something is wrong in society”.
  • A loss of meaning, value, and a view of ones self in a degraded way . . . a person feels a loss or inadequate in some way.
  • A need or want for a new society or way to be to replace the existing society.

One thing this shows is that the failure of bourgeois society tends to create a sense of frustration and unhappiness of society, and even of oneself, which then causes a tendency to Utopian thinking, of wanting to seek a “better world” or society.  Since this Utopia is in reaction to a condition that is causing problems it generally has a quality of “the grass is always greener on the other side” or a “pie in the sky” mentality . . . this new society is always “better”.

This Utopian thinking will cause many people to worship things like change, anything new, as well as technology.  In other words, a lot of the worship of change and technology, that we see nowadays, is almost always hiding a frustration and unhappiness caused by bourgeois society.  It caters to the Utopia thinking, of a fantasy world that is “better”.  Of course, the problem is that none of these “better worlds” have been better, they just sound like they will be.  In fact, no one has found this “better world” to replace bourgeois society, though many have tried.

I tend to think that bourgeois society will be hard to replace.  This is primarily because of the power it has.  At this time, there is really nothing that can compete with bourgeois society.  In fact, many societies of the world can’t even compete with it.  It now has almost complete domination of most of the world and I see no signs this will change soon, either.


It seems that one of the inevitable results of the reaction to bourgeois society, particularly for the male, can be described in this saying of mine:

“Turn away and tend to ones self.”

This means:

Turn way – have little involvement in the society . . . be on the margin of society.

Tend to one self – follow ones inclinations and feelings of what one feels is correct . . . don’t bring society into it nor impose it onto society.

I often speak of this point of view as the “casual life”.  Its sort of a stance in life that is caused because there is “nothing else we can do at this time”.   What I mean by that is that it is not a normal healthy response to life but, rather, a reaction to a condition that forces one in this direction.

Problems of this condition, though, include:

  • It does not solve the problem . . . bourgeois society remains.  
  • A person is not part of a society.  This is an issue as usually when a person feels the failure of this society they want some form of social support . . . but its not coming.  This leaves a “great absence” that is never filled.  The Utopian viewpoint tends to make people create what can be described as “pseudo-societies” to replace bourgeois society and that appear to be new and lasting but tend to fail.  A good example are the hippies.

The net result of this is that everything is placed on the person and puts weight on the person.  Because of this, it forces a condition onto people that has qualities such as:

  • A more individualistic standpoint
  • A tendency to feel more strain or stress
  • A tendency to feel more insecure or vulnerable

Many people are not “up to”a life with these qualities.  As a result, many people will waver between rebelling, at some times, and at other times agreeing with society, for example.  Because of this, even reacting to bourgeois society can create a sense of “unsteadiness” that never goes away.


Image illness

The nature of bourgeois society is that it puts undo stress on the person which can eventually causes mental problems.  In particular, because bourgeois society is related to trying to be something you’re not and seeking an “image”, a problem that it creates is what I often call the “image illness”.  This is basically a condition where a person has a conflict between an “image” they are trying to be and what they really are.  The result is a number of mental problems that are prevalent in bourgeois society.

The bourgeois condition often develops something like two selves:

  1. The “image self” – the self that corresponds to the “image” they are trying to seek
  2. The “inner self” – the self that reflects what one truly is

Often, one is only aware of, or conscious, of the “image self” because, in bourgeois society, this is what matters and where the focus of life is located.  Despite this, the “inner self” still functions and is often trying to work its way from underneath the weight of the “image self”.  As a general rule, in the “image illness” the “image self” is dominant.  The symptoms of the illness are caused by how the “inner self” is struggling with the “image self”.  This creates a number of situations such as:

  • Frustration/depression – The” inner self” is strong but struggles under the weight of the “image self” . . . the person is unable to live up to the “image”.
  • Neurasthenia/stress – The “inner self” is struggling and desperately trying to live up to the “image”.
  • Alienation/disconnection – After seeking the “image self” for so long one loses touch with ones “inner self”.
  • Neurosis/detachment – The “image self” has become dominant so long that it becomes removed from the “inner self”.  Despite this, the “inner self” tries to asserts itself but can’t under the weight of the “image self”.  This ends up causing neurotic symptoms.

These problems are very prevalent in bourgeois society.  In some respects, they define it.  Their continual presence tends to give bourgeois society this quality of being “nervous”, “uptight”, “neurotic”, and “insecure”.

Imitation illness

Since bourgeois society is based in imitating the upper class there is a tendency for there to be strong imitative tendencies in this society.  That is to say, imitation becomes a way of life for some people.  In fact, people are often “measured” by how well they imitate and if they imitate the proper “values”.  Not only is this true with “measuring” other people but how well a person “measures” themselves.  In this way, imitation has great impact on how one views other people and ones self.  

To go further, in this society, what is called education is really nothing more than imitation and learning how to imitate . . . what is a test than determining if you’ve “imitated properly” (that is, repeated what you heard, read, or did properly)?  In addition, a lot of work is nothing but imitating, almost an assembly-like imitation which dominates a large part of many peoples everyday life.  This means that, in this society, imitation has become a necessity for making a living.

The prevalence and necessity of imitation often creates qualities such as:

  • A robot-like mentality
  • A lack of being genuine to oneself
  • A blind sheep-like mentality
  • A overly competitive mentality based in “out-imitating” each other
  • The creation of a false “social structure” based in how well a person imitates properly

Since most people can’t imitate properly, or have problems with it, most people tend to fail at the “imitation game” causing various problems such as:

  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Contempt of society and people
  • A feeling of being distant with society and people – alienation
  • An absence of a desire to participate
  • A lack of initiative – apathy
  • A lack of belonging
  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression
  • A desire to “get back” at society even to the point of violence
  • A tendency where people kill themselves in order to “imitate properly”

Problems originating in imitation I tend to call the “imitation illness” (I actually have a category, in this blog, where I discuss problems of imitation, if your interested).  I tend to view the “imitation illness” as somewhat of a problem.

It seems to me that imitation has gone so far that it causes what can be described as an “imitative character”.  That is to say, a character of person where imitation is the dominant trait and determines their whole world view and how they relate with the world.  This seems to create a character of person that has qualities similar to Asperger Syndrome.  In actuality, its a “learned Asperger Syndrome”.  I tend to think that this has become very prevalent nowadays and is reflective of the overly imitative qualities of this society.


The bourgeois tendency to seek an “image” and try to be like something your not has permeated much of this society.  In fact, it has, it seems to me, had great impact on what it produces and creates.  In other words, the tendency to try to be like something your not has created an attitude of “looking beyond oneself”.  This has allowed bourgeois society to as if “transcend itself”.  This has caused a point of view, and a willingness, to take things further than they normally would.  The result of this is that it has caused a tendency to great progress in many different areas:  consumer products, machines, science, entertainment, weapons, etc., etc., etc.  This has never been seen before.  Normally, people take a limited view of things and tend to look at things in a more narrow perspective which inhibits any progress.  The bourgeois attitude, with its attitude of being something your not, tends to create a more expanded perspective which, of course, has created a more expanded progress.

This element of progress is one of the things that has strengthened it even further.  This is because progress has had a great impact on the economy.  Since bourgeois society is based in the merchant and middle classes it caters to much of the mentality and origins of this society.

I’ve written some additional thoughts in these articles:

More thoughts on the bourgeoisie mentality – the influence of the “culture of sychophant’s”

Thoughts on my reaction to an American form of the “culture of sycophant’s” – the “yupi” (yuppie) movement and aspects about it

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Dehumanization and alienation, Historical stuff, Imitation, imitative illnesses, and such, Mass hysteria, mass society, and the mob, Modern life and society, Oversensitivity, the 'rift personality', shyness, love shyness, and Asperger's, Society and sociology, Victorianism, Bourgeoisie, noble imitation, and sycophancy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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