09 - Middle Classes

09 - Middle Classes

Recording date: 28/10/2009
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The nineteenth century in Europe is, in many ways, synonymous with the rise of the bourgeoisie. It is misleading, however, to consider this newly dominant middle class as a homogenous group; rather, the century may be more accurately described in terms of the rise of plural middle classes. While the classes comprising this group were united by their search for power based on property rights rather than hereditary privilege, they were otherwise strikingly diverse. Contemporary stereotypes of the bourgeois as a grasping philistine ought to therefore be nuanced. Along with the real, undeniable cruelty of many capitalists with respect to their workers, the middle classes also pioneered the first philanthropic voluntary associations, broadened the reach of public education, and inspired the development of effective birth control.

John Merriman


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