The Capitalist Class in The European
Kees van der Pijl
In avoiding transhistorical conceptions of reality, classes are seen in this chapter as social forces whose cohesion derives from the role played in a mode of production, and in a historical sequence of modes of production; and whose ascension at a particular moment in "world time" 1 is geographically confined. Thus, the capitalist class or bourgeoisie has always been the entrepreneurial, property-owning stratum in a mode of production based on private enterprise and wage labor, the capitalist mode of production. Its historical emancipation, as a class, was critically determined, however, by whether (in the course of the consecutive stages of the capitalist mode of production) the bourgeoisie was the ascendant class mobilizing society behind a liberal project in a feudal or absolutist context; whether it redeployed in a defensive configuration with the conservative, landowning class in a context of partially developed, monopolistic capitalism or whether it again developed autonomously on the basis of a class compromise with the workers rooted in productivity growth and rising real wages (the postwar adoption of Fordist production methods).
Capital represents a potentially world-embracing social force, structuring roles and patterns of behavior and consciousness which are sanctioned in the action of the particular capitals on each other—competition. But the settings in which a bourgeoisie crystallizes and evolves into a conscious social and political force are concrete, and hence, discrete. Within Western Europe, or even within the distinct countries making up the subcontinent, the relative weight of the bourgeoisie varied at any given time, and its common orientation at the national plane, with respect to directing or influencing the action of the state, likewise cannot be generalized. We are accordingly faced with a situation in which from very diverse vantage points, concrete entrepreneurial groups adopt bourgeois orientations, and these orientations converge on common patterns tending toward concrete unification on a world scale. Hegel, in his day, thought that the basis for unification was preordained in the rationality of the universe, but as Gramsci