Christof Dejung, David Motadel, and Jurgen Osterhammel, eds. The Global Bourgeoisie: The Rise of the Middle Class in the Age of Empire. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019. xv + 375 pp. Hardcover, $99.95.

AuthorHare, J. Laurence
PositionArticle 6 - Book review

Two decades have now passed since Dipesh Chakrabarty made his famous call to "provincialize Europe," that is, to de-universalize the concepts from European societies that have been used to define and justify Western dominance. His perspective has proved highly influential in promoting critical reflection across social science disciplines and bringing to the fore a richer understanding of world societies. More recently, scholars have returned to these concepts, considering them anew through a global rather than universal lens and recognizing the ways in which they have been imposed, but also adopted and transformed within the context of globalization. Indeed, this is the approach taken by the team behind the The Global Bourgeoisie, a remarkable anthology edited by historians Christof Dejung and David Motadel. They are joined by Jurgen Osterhammel, a pioneer in the field whose magisterial work on the global nineteenth century looms large over the present work. The premise that unites the chapters in this volume is that the bourgeoisie, understood in the broadest sense as a modern elite, a "middle class" in the provincial parlance of Europe, is a social phenomenon that transcended the bounds of Europe and stretched across the world in the ages of capital and empire. As the editors explain, "One of the most striking features of the nineteenth century was the rise of similar groups around the world" (p. 2). This idea builds implicitly on Chakrabarty by showing that the bourgeoisie as a social stratum may have its origins in Europe, but it played a seminal role in the transformation of societies elsewhere. The contributors offer case studies that come together to form "the first truly global survey of the history of the bourgeoisie" (p. 3), with the goal of establishing "a new trajectory for global historical research by helping define the field of global social history" (p. 6). Even if one may question how thoroughly they succeed in their overarching ambition, their collective efforts to define and assess the emergence and development of a bourgeois elite certainly creates a viable model for future global social historical research and stands on its own as an impressive scholarly achievement.

Following an introduction laying out the conceptual plan and historiographical stakes of the project, the book proceeds with fourteen case studies that illuminate the roles of the state, colonialism, capitalism, and religion in the construction and...

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