Social class in France

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The modern social structure of France is complex, but generally similar to that of other European countries. Traditional social classes still have some presence, with a large bourgeoisie and especially petite bourgeoisie, and an unusually large proportion, for modern Europe, of farming smallholders. All these groups, and the remaining industrial working class, have considerable political power, which they are able to flex when required.

Bourgeoisie polysemous French term which denotes the wealthy stratum of the middle class that originated during the latter part of the Middle Ages

Bourgeoisie is a polysemous French term that can mean:

<i>Petite bourgeoisie</i>

Petite bourgeoisie, also petty bourgeoisie, is a French term referring to a social class comprising semi-autonomous peasantry and small-scale merchants whose politico-economic ideological stance in times of socioeconomic stability is determined by reflecting that of a haute ("high") bourgeoisie, with which the petite bourgeoisie seeks to identify itself and whose bourgeois morality it strives to imitate.

Bon chic bon genre is a term for fashionable people of good family ("bon genre"), especially in Paris. Graduates of the École nationale d'administration, or énarques predominate in the upper levels of government and many industries, along with graduates of the other Grandes écoles, specialized state-run institutes of tertiary education. However primary and secondary education is almost entirely at state schools, unlike say England, and a major engine of meritocracy. Cultural capital, a concept from France, is still considered an issue for the many French people in a process of social mobility. The old french society before the French revolution was divided on the basis of 'etates' and they were as follows:

Bon chic, bon genre is an expression used in France to refer to a subculture of stylish members of the Paris upper class. They are typically well-educated, well-connected, and descended from "old money" families, preferably with some aristocratic ancestry. The style combines certain fashionable tastes with the appearance of social respectability. The expression is sometimes shortened to "BCBG".

École nationale dadministration French graduate school ("grande école")


The École nationale d'administration is a French grande école, created in 1945 by French President, Charles de Gaulle, and principal author of the French Constitution, Michel Debré, to democratise access to the senior civil service. The ENA selects and undertakes initial training of senior French officials. It is considered to be one of the most academically exceptional French schools, both because of its low acceptance rates and because a large majority of its candidates have already graduated from other elite schools in the country. Thus, within French society, the ENA stands as one of the main pathways to high positions in the public and private sectors.

The grandes écoles of France are higher education establishments that are separate and parallel, but often connected to, the main framework of the French public university system. Grandes écoles are highly selective, elite, and prestigious institutions; their graduates have dominated upper levels of the private and public sectors of French society for decades.

  1. Clergy
  2. Nobility
  3. Common people

Following the French revolution, and with industrialization driving the country forward, the social structure of France changed drastically and the bourgeoisie became the new ruling class. The nobility was on the decline with agricultural and land yields decreasing, and arranged marriages between noble and bourgeois family became increasingly common, fusing the two social classes together during the 19th century. The social classes in France during this period were as follows:

19th century Century

The 19th (nineteenth) century was a century that began on January 1, 1801, and ended on December 31, 1900. It is often used interchangeably with the 1800s, though the start and end dates differ by a year.

  1. The haute bourgeoisie: Highly educated and affluent, this social class had both economic and political sway, and could afford leisure time. This class was composed of industrialists, lawyers, bankers, notaries, politicians, prominent doctors and pharmacists.
  2. The petite bourgeoisie: An educated or skilled middle class. They are composed of store owners, lower ranked civil servants, professors, and skilled artisans.
  3. The working class: This formed the majority of the population. The urban working class is distinguished from the rural laborers. With industrialization on the rise, there is an increasing about of jobs in urban areas based in factories and construction sites. The countryside is on the decline and a large amount of rural laborers move towards cities and towns for better opportunities.

In the 21st century, social class in France is often measured by income and profession.

The 21st (twenty-first) century is the current century of the Anno Domini era or Common Era, in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. It began on January 1, 2001, and will end on December 31, 2100. It is the first century of the 3rd millennium. It is distinct from the century known as the 2000s which began on January 1, 2000, and will end on December 31, 2099.

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Working class Social class composed of members of the society employed in lower tier jobs

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