(Beginners Guide to Revolutionary Humanism 21.)
The Bourgeois World View.
In the 20th century, the French word bourgeoisie was often used to refer to the European capitalist and pro-capitalist class in general. It was this class that during the 17th and 18th centuries ushered in the capitalist mode of production. The relevance of using the term in the 21st century is that our world today is clearly a product of the capitalist mode of production. Furthermore, the ideological framework that developed in support of this ‘mode’ still dominates modern elites particularly in Europe. Moreover, global humanity in general is still dominated by the economic and financial operations of capitalism and most people are heavily influenced by ‘the bourgeois world view’.
Even faced with multiple viruses swarming along the network of capitalist commodity supply chains and killing millions, the daily economic basis of capital (buying and selling for profit) is a priority energetically protected by its pro – capitalist governing elites. Despite the heavy death toll, the Covid19 Pandemic is still being encouraged to spread by business as usual politicians and their support networks. So dominant is this bourgeois ideological hold on politicians and large numbers of people that efforts to ‘jump-start’ the virus-stalled world economic system – as it was formerly – is viewed as ‘common sense’. Bourgeois forms of exploitation, entitlement and conspicuous consumption have become considered as ‘normal’ aspirations.
Just as problematically, those who prefer the bourgeois world view over saving human lives also implicitly accept species loss, climate change, air, sea and land pollution, ecological destruction, global poverty and daily armed conflict. It seems anything bad will be tolerated rather than become reasons to challenge the capitalist system. Satellite producers are even making an orbital junk yard high above the planets atmosphere. It is clear, capitalism and its bourgeois elites recognise no limits to production either physical or moral. All the above 21st century problems and more to come, are simply the logical unfolding of the 17th and 18th century ‘bourgeois world view’.
During its practical development, the ideology of the European bourgeois classes had to challenge and subordinate the previous religious views of the world. Medieval religious elites predominantly viewed the world through their mystical beliefs, according to which an invisible male God created the world and its many organic species in a matter of six days. This God was further imagined as overseeing that earthy creation 24/7, aided by his earthly representatives – the priests and later the Kings. This was an undoubted reversal of reality. The priests and Kings had their own earthly patriarchal purposes and merely claimed – as intellectual back-up – that these same purposes were those of the male God they chose to follow.
Economic and social control by priests and Kings was unsuitable for the emerging capitalist traders and producers. They required a more direct control of production and a more secular form of ideology in order to administer an extended world of buying and selling for profit. With the world as their intended ‘shopping mall’, they re-assigned God to control of an imaginary ‘department of heaven’; relegated priests to control of departments of ‘kneeling down and praying’; and royalty to palaces of ‘waving and bowing’. Then they promoted themselves to managers of the earth and all its species. From then on, improving the planet by ‘civilising’ it into a multitude of global business-opportunity nations became the duty and ‘burden’ of self-appointed bourgeois male elites.
To enable this long term global trading project, the European bourgeoisie had to name and create a detailed description (and potential use) for each item encountered. Ocean voyages of ‘discovery’ departed from Europe and came across lands which contained “new caught sullen peoples” (as per Rudyard Kippling). These were Indigenous communities living on Islands and continents which they had ‘discovered’ thousands if not millions of years previously. Nevertheless, they and their habitats were not considered existentially valid until 17th and 18th century Europeans literally set eyes and feet on them. Naming the contents of the Old and New World (sic) and labelling them was – like modern bailiffs – also a preliminary act of intended confiscation and possession. Even the reckoning of time, was imposed upon local conventions in favour of European Greenwich mean time (GMT).
These ancient human cultures and non-human resources were forcibly incorporated into European empires of overseas territories. Adam Smiths (Wealth of Nations) inspired insight, “the whole world for a market” via “water/sea carriage” was being opened up. Bit by bit, most of the world was eventually controlled by Europe and since Europe was controlled by the bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie effectively controlled most of the world. Everything, large or small, was examined and recorded within a catalogue or taxonomy. Hence, the naming and describing disciplines of Chemistry, Physics, Economics, Mathematics, Sociology, Ethnology, Anthropology, Astronomy, Geography and Biology developed alongside capitalist production and commerce.
Each ‘rationalised’ discipline functioned to bring as much of the world as possible into conformity with the languages, prejudices and profit-making world-view of the European bourgeois classes. By imposing European science, technology, time and languages wherever possible, a single bourgeois ‘civilising‘ narrative, made up of multiple strands, was woven into a global network of communication. The narrative was exported alongside commodities until it collectively embraced and dominated the actions, thought processes and the imagination of global humanity.
Land masses along with human heads and bodies were ‘scientifically’ measured, assessed and judged in a negative relationship to the assumed cultural and intellectual superiority of the European heartland and its pale-skinned bourgeois males. Once mapped, global land masses had lines drawn upon them and dependent or subordinate ‘nations’ were created. The ultimate European bourgeois mission was the transformation and shaping the world in accordance with their own preferred mode of production and prejudiced world view. Their practical task, utilising the developments maturing in science and technology, was to harness, control and improve on nature and its evolutionary development.
At the practical level, the bourgeois radical/revolutionary changes (always designated as improvements) imposed upon the ‘advanced’ (sic) countries by their anti-aristocratic revolutions, were then supplied and supported by extracting resources from the ‘New World’. First by means of Free Trade and Colonialism, then by Imperialism, this buying, selling, profit-based (‘advanced’ and ‘backward’) socio-economic model, was imposed upon the entire world. At a practical and ideological level the mission of the bourgeois elite in general was to make the world a mirror image of its own socio-economic development. Any other economic mode of production or any alternative cultural or social narrative was violently opposed or even physically eliminated.
Bourgeois profit-driven realities.
However, at a practical bourgeois production level, the dominant socio-economic motive was the continuous creation of private wealth for bourgeoisie accumulation and their desire for conspicuous consumption. The means of achieving this wealth was by the production of commodities and services using, slavery and wage – slavery to create surplus-value and profit. The profit motive required the most relentless and ruthlessly efficient production processes. However, these profit-driven methods were in direct conflict with nature and the evolution of the planet and humanity.
Thus, a dystopian contrast occurred between the ‘civilised’ pristine technological order existing among the up-town wealthy parts of urban living and the down-town slums and tin shacks of the poor. Those two outcomes became a universal symptom of 19th to 21st century bourgeois reality. The manicured lawns and pristine environments of the rich and famous were (and are) in stark contrast with the brown field sites, denuded forests, the polluted disorder of slag heaps and chemical overspills – all resulting from profit making for the benefit of bourgeois elites.
This re-shaping of the earth according to the ‘common-sense’ dictates of the bourgeois men and women who influence and control the capitalist mode of production, thus turned out to be a mis-shaping and un-balancing of the planets ecological and evolutionary development. So powerful and ingrained is the current hold of the bourgeois world view on humanity, that the end of the world can be more easily envisioned, than devising an alternative mode of production. However, for those not blinded by self-interest and temporary advantage, the bourgeois world view presents itself as one of progressive disorder and species extinctions which needs to be urgently curtailed.
Roy Ratcliffe (March 2021)