The capitalist class or bourgeoisie (from the French term "bourgeois", meaning: from the city) is the ruling class of the economic and political system of capitalism. It is characterized by owning large quantities of capital, and hiring proletarian laborers to produce commodities.
Whereas the proletariat is the subject, exploited, disposed class in capitalist society, the bourgeoisie is the master, exploitative, and possessor class. The bourgeoisie owns the means of production and the means of living, including, but not limited to: factories, farmland, workshops, offices, and even housing. The proletariat and bourgeoisie stand in direct opposition to one another, and their differences are irreconcilable, resulting in class struggle.
Historically, the bourgeoisie emerged as artisans and petty tradesman during the late stages of feudalism, and from there clashed with their rivals, the landlords of the estates. Feudal states were often physiocratic, preventing the bourgeois from industrializing (Marx details this hypocritical struggle in his second manuscript of his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. ), as well as protectionist, preventing the bourgeois from gaining wealth through foreign trade. Bourgeois revolutions throughout the 18th and 19th centuries in Western Europe and the Americas destroyed most of feudalism, ushering in liberal capitalism.