Stiftelsen för forskning inom områden med anknytning till Östersjöregionen och Östeuropa

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. The Urban Arenas of the Baltic Middle Classes. A ”Long 19th Century” Study.

Ämne: Historia
Projektledare: Martin Wottle
Startår: 2011
Projekttyp: Projekt

The aim of the project is to study the development of the bourgeoisie in urban centres around the Baltic Sea during ’the long 19th century’ (1789–1914).
The transformation of the bourgeoisie, from the enfranchised burgesses within a society of estates, through the ‘middling orders’ or Mittelstand, to the more elusive middle classes, will be studied from a centre–periphery-perspective, with an established centre – Germany – related to the border areas of Sweden, Finland and the Baltic realms.
A starting point for the project is that the formation of the bourgeoisie is enacted on various scenes, or arenas: (a) The symbolic, transnational scene, (b) the urban public scene, (c) the ‘male’ urban scene, and (d) the urban political scene. From these arenas emanate the following issues:
(1) In what way were these arenas used and reshaped by bourgeois groups through the phases of 19th century ‘bourgeois society’, in order to engender new identities?
(2) How did various bourgeois groups mould a new habitus, in relation to these arenas (and other groups)?
(3) Did this development manifest itself differently in different areas around the Baltic, or do we witness the emergence of a common, ‘Baltic’ bourgeois, cultural sphere?
Theoretically the project makes use of the concepts of habitus and gender/masculinity. The aim is to merge theoretical notions of class as ‘imagined’ and as cultural practice respectively. The concept of habitus is central, as new ways of socializing, consuming, dressing etc., making use of the urban arenas, would have been essential for the bourgeoisie of a ‘new age’. These arenas were, though, often built around forms of exclusion, not least on the basis of gender. To what extent were the urban arenas shaped to accommodate to new ideals of masculinity?
The four different projects involved aim at studying: the spread of symbols within the Baltic economic networks and the shaping of arenas of economic power; bourgeois class formation through the patterns of public consumption; how the urban arenas were shaped for, and by, the bourgeois ‘male’; and, finally, bourgeois formation in municipal politics.

Final report - Martin Wottle - The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.