Petit bourgeoisie (literally “little bourgeoisie”):
This class includes people who may own some form of capital on a small or individual level—not enough to generate more capital (and thus be a capitalist), but enough to keep themselves going. This can be physical capital, such as a store, or intellectual capital, such as a degree in engineering. These forms of personal capital require an investment and enhance their earning ability. The upper strata of this class aspire to belong to the bourgeoisie, and they identify ideologically with that class.
The petit bourgeoisie also includes “non-productive” working people (this is not a judgment about the utility of the service or work they perform—it means that their labor power assists in the circulation of capital rather than creating surplus value). Many non-productive working people have no personal capital and are heavily dominated in the exchange of their services for wages. This tends to bring them closer, ideologically, to the working class.
The petit bourgeoisie is not an autonomous class. Because the principal conflict in capitalism is between the bourgeoisie and working class, the various strata of the petit bourgeoisie exist in the camp of either of these two fundamental classes. Their interests, along with their loyalties, will tend to waver between the two.
This wide-ranging class includes:
Small entrepreneurs and business owners
Skilled professionals such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, programmers, baseball players
Intellectuals such as artists, writers and academics
Teachers, journalists, firefighters, police, social workers, bus drivers
Small-time drug dealers
White collar (clerical) workers such as office assistants, telemarketers, cube farm data jockeys
Service workers including sales clerks, sex workers, health care, and hotel workers
"La Noce" de Bertold Brecht, la petite-bourgeoisie au décapant:
Georges Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, 1884–1886, at The Art Institute of Chicago, depicting petite bourgeoise and prostitutes on the right bank of the river.