The Real Paris
A City Divided
Paris & Politics
Space & Money
Increasingly vague class distinctions were reinforced
by the rise of a wide range of businesses. The term bourgeoisie,
says historian Gordon Wright, could apply to a range of
people, "from the millionaire banker or industrialist
of Paris or Lyons to the village grocer or postal clerk
of Clochemerle" (Wright 158). Generally, bourgeoisie
were divided into three groups: the politically powerful
grand bourgeois, the land-holding middle bourgeoisie,
and the independent business owners of the petty bourgeoisie.
|Business among the Grand and Middle Bourgeoisie
"Business is other people's money."
- Alexander Dumas the younger, 1824-1895
One sign of the growing importance of business in Paris
was the move of the Exchange from temporary locations such
as the Palais Royal
to a permanent building at La
Bourse in 1826.
Northwest sector, Paris, 1847
The Exchange was founded in 1724 as a
place where merchants could meet to discuss business. When
it opened in 1827, La Bourse housed stockbrokers, the Chamber
of Commerce, and the Court of Bankruptcy, among others.
It was open to the public, however an 1847 guide book advises,
"as it was found to encourage a passion for gambling
among the gentler sex, [ladies] are not . . . generally
allowed to enter during hours of business" (Galignani,
221). In fact, this "passion for gambling" was
considered by many to have become an obsession of the bourgeoisie.
Historian David Harvey reports that "the bourse
seemed to become the center of corruption as well as
of reckless speculation that gobbled up many a landed fortune"
(Harvey 80). The two images below illustrate this point.
Degas' At the Stock Exchange, 1879
This is a lithograph from 1857 by Alphonse Chigot. It
depicts a crowd of Parisians outside of La Bourse, which
has been overrun by what appear to be daemons (notice
the unnaturally long, thin limbs), riding on a much larger,
winged monster, which stares hungrily down on the crowds.
The reactions of the Parisians themselves are varied.
Those wearing top hats, presumably bourgeoisie, or at
least wealthy men, are in positions of alarm, supplication,
or flight. There is an overturned carriage in the foreground,
as well. The people in the lower right corner, however,
do not appear to be paying any attention to the carnage
behind them. Instead, a group of children and an elderly
man are listening to a man -a worker or bohemian?- playing
the violin. By juxtaposition, this image presents a dramatic
view of the contrast between the rich and the poor. (Click
here to see this image
with the subjects mentioned pointed out.)
This painting by Impressionist Edgar Degas shows a scene
from the Stock Exchange. The line of sight composition
of the painting is typical of Impressionist paintings,
seeming to give the viewer an objective picture of life.
The principle figures are two men, probably, from their
well made clothes, of the upper bourgeoisie. The man first
man is looking at a slip of paper being shown to him by
a figure only partially within view. The second man is
looking over the shoulder of the first, also at the slip.
The third important figure in the painting is in the background:
a less distinct, almost sinister figure who appears to
be copying something onto a piece of paper in his hands.
This figure's attention is also focused on the two principle
men. Overall, it is a fairly negative portrayal of the
business which went on in La Bourse.
|Business among the Petty Bourgeoisie and Proletariat:
| The Petty Bourgeoisie included less successful, independent
business owners: anyone from small time entrepreneurs to
artisans to lesser employees of the state. A few had inherited
a business or craft, but most had only recently worked their
way up from the proletariat. Many times, the distinction
between petty bourgeoisie and proletariat was purely psychological,
based more on "attitudes, values, and lifestyle than
[on] economic status" (Wright 160).
||This is an early stereograph taken in the 1860's
by H. Jouvin and entitled "Group of Merchants from Les
Halles." It depicts a market day in Paris, capturing
the crowds typical of such events. In analyzing the composition
of the stereograph, one should note the lack of concrete objects,
which would distract the eye from the crowds. Many of the
women are wearing shawls, which might identify them as from
the petty bourgeoisie or working class.
|This photograph from the 1840's
shows a group of petty bourgeoisie outside of a Parisian grocery
store. The customers wear cloth hats, and sturdy clothes
suitable for labor. They appear to be lounging. It is important
to remember the limitations of technology when looking at
early photographs: moving objects were difficult to capture.
Thus, the presence of people, and the clarity with which they
were depicted implies that they remained in these positions
for some time. The goods sold in this grocery store would
have come from local farms, and were taxed
before they entered the city.