The despised petite bourgeoisie

Dalrymple writes that there is no descriptive term in sociology, except Lumpenproletariat, that serves so much as one of abuse as petite bourgeoisie,

so much so that I doubt that anyone would proudly proclaim himself a member of that class.

In the minds of most people who would ever use the expression, Dalrymple suspects that petit bourgeois stands for

  • mean-spirited
  • bigoted
  • avaricious
  • unimaginative
  • hypocritical
  • egotistical
  • small-minded
  • envious
  • resentful
  • grasping
  • intolerant
  • cowardly but potentially aggressive
  • shortsighted
  • miserly
  • xenophobic
  • tasteless

It is not hard, he says,

to spot a considerable element of snobbery, social and intellectual, in this. It is all right to be interested in money so long as you make a great deal of it; anything less is pathetic and reprehensible. To be interested in the kind of economies and savings to which the petit bourgeois is given is beneath the dignity of a better — which is to say a higher or a lower — class.

No doubt it is true that the petite bourgeoisie

has sometimes supported atrocious leaders or ideas, but this only proves them to have been human, since all classes have done the same. No doubt it is also true that the petit bourgeois is sometimes scheming in a petty way. But is dishonest scheming worse if it is done on a small scale rather than big?

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