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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/8210/synonym-of-imbecility/

synonym of imbecility

June 19, 2008 by

From Human Action: The Scholars Edition, chapter 15: “The Market”:

The creative genius is at variance with his fellow citizens. As the pioneer of things new and unheard of he is in conflict with their uncritical acceptance of traditional standards and values. In his eyes the routine of the regular citizen, the average or common man, is simply stupidity. For him “bourgeois” is a synonym of imbecility. The frustrated artists who take delight in aping the genius’s mannerism in order to forget and to conceal their own impotence adopt this terminology. These Bohemians call everything they dislike “bourgeois.” Since Marx has made the term “capitalist” equivalent to “bourgeois,” they use both words synonymously. In the vocabularies of all languages the words “capitalistic” and “bourgeois” signify today all that is shameful, degrading, and infamous.*

* The Nazis used “Jewish” as a synonym of both “capitalist” and “bourgeois.”


jaqphule June 19, 2008 at 6:24 pm


As a point to ponder, this is somewhat lacking. Vernacular terminology has evolved more than slightly in the decades since Mises wrote this.

Was there a point? Or just a random quote to float down the memestream, to melt away in a fog of whateverness?

Ryan June 19, 2008 at 8:04 pm

It didn’t occur to me when I first saw it a few years ago, but a Lebron James commercial for Nike uses “bourgeois” as a pejorative. He says it at the end of the clip.


Bruce Koerber June 19, 2008 at 8:44 pm

I propose that part of the entrepreneurial spirit is the ability to recognize the value in our inequality but also to value the uniqueness of each.

This can be understood as ‘alertness’ to the human reality. Combine this with a recognition of the value of the subjectiveness of each person and the end result will be a humble, productive person.

Kirk Sinclair June 20, 2008 at 5:32 am

There is a distinction between collective wisdom and conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom occurs when individuality is constrained; collective wisdom occurs when decentralized individuality is allowed to form diverse opinions and there is a method for aggregating these opinions. Paternalism views conventional wisdom as inevitable; that, we the middle class will always be pawns. True liberty has faith that if the conditions for independent thinking and democratic aggregation exist, the greatest wisdom will be achieved.

liberty student June 20, 2008 at 7:34 am

Thanks for this BK. Excellent quote.

Book 'em Danno June 20, 2008 at 9:23 am

Etymology is real history. I was in a meeting about the excesses of political correctness the other day. Education bureaucrats all present. I bit my tongue when one President Johnson era idealist exclaimed “Just look what the conservatives have done to the term ‘liberal’- it is now derogatory, derisive even!”

Now, what would professors’ Raico or Mises have to say about this? Who stole liberal first?

And who is stealing ‘libertarian’ now?

jaq phule June 20, 2008 at 2:21 pm

Etymology may be real history, but then again, so is the term “bourgeois”. I’ve only ever heard this term used in two ways, Nike commercials notwithstanding:

1. Historical, mainly in terms of the French revolution.
2. In jest, with many waggling of eyebrows and side comments about capitalist lackey dogs and the purity of Russian porridge.

And who *is* stealing ‘libertarian’ now? Just remember, Bob Barr is a king, an imperialist at heart, and an elephant.

No, that’s Babar.

No, wait, it really is Bob Barr!

I’ve often wondered what the next synonym for “classical liberal” that might appear over the horizon once “libertarian” has been completely coopted. Any suggestions? I hereby cast my vote for “bourgeois”, since no one else is actually using it these days. Nike notwithstanding.

onoje June 21, 2008 at 8:57 pm

The archetype of the “Last man”:
Avant-garde: hedonist snobs and Philistines, i.e. hippies and beats, summed up in “bohemian” and “postmodern, the latter signifying the mendaciousness involved in their posture as anti-Art artists.) Propagators of cultural hodgepodge, basically spiritual-moral-aesthetic Autistics. Fundamentally activists.

Bourgeois: (Pharisees, pedantic and hypocritical absence of valid ethical conceptions and the will to abide by them, summed up in “Babbit”). Fundamentally politicians; democracy=everyone middleclass with all above and below as “moral degenerates.”

I propose the first be called “petite bourgeois” (Roland Barthes’ term), and the second merely bourgeois. The first has the connotation of being a small tolerated minority tolerated subsumed by the latter, whose obstinacy and complacency triumphs by sheer weight of numbers/inertia. The former, in large enough numbers become revolutionaries and agitate for popular revolt for privileges. The distinction can be capricious, for as Hitler once said in a speech, the National Socialist revolution was the ideological sister of Rousseau and standard bearer of the spirit of the French revolution.

To account for this synthesis, we may as well identify these varieties of mass humanitarians with the tried epithet of “Socialist.” Petite bourgois become Leftists, orthodox Marxists, the Bourgeois moderates, and the rightmost strata of the petite bourgeois as National Socialists and Fascists.

Petite bourgeoisie: “radical” socialists; Communist, Fascist.
Bourgeoisie: moderate socialists, “mixed economy” advocates. Conservative, Liberal.
Synthesis: Socialists as opposed to Libertarians et. al.

The simple way to eliminate the petite-bourgeois is to abolish government education. The rise of a natural aristocracy will be competent enough to check pretenders’ poses with actual art-forms and creative works worthy of the canonization required to establish the “unity of the style of expression” prerequisite to the development of culture at all. Government hacks and government educated hacks in the colleges especially, are much to blame for the spiritual Siberia today. Private technical schools will arise and there will be less over exposure to the humanities for those not competent to assimilate and further those traditions. Further, private Gymnasiums or academies will also arise which will be able to cultivate achievement in the cultural realm. The State intrusion into civil society remains the fundamental problem, and that is pretty much what Socialists have that much going for them today.

Uphill battle here we go.

Book 'em Danno June 23, 2008 at 9:10 am

Jaq P., how about “socialist”, since government as means is essentially antisocial. Fight fire with fire?

Onoje: Amen, brother. Let us ditch government schooling. You say it richly.

Yelhsa April 12, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Great thniinkg! That really breaks the mold!

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