The petite bourgeoisie (French, "small citizenry"; German: Kleinbürgertum), also called petty bourgeoisie, is an economic class defined in that they own means of production and operate them themselves. They are the oldest and most numerous subgroup of the bourgeoisie, being throughout history artisans and petty tradesmen. Their primary distinction from the haute bourgeoisie is that they employ few workers or none at all. Ideologically they tend to identify strongly with the bourgeoisie and what they perceive to be its values.
Under capitalism, the petite bourgeoisie repeatedly risk falling into the proletariat during economic crises. This makes their interests occasionally align with those of the working class, but also elicits the opposite response, leading the petite bourgeoisie to turn to conservative and reactionary politics as they seek to reaffirm their position in the social hierarchy.
Other traits also associate the petite bourgeoisie with conservative politics. The family business model of many petite bourgeois enterprises predisposes them to value the nuclear family over more extended and flexible family forms. Their dependence on a strong local economy makes them suspicious of solidarity over larger regions.