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Vers une sociologie des aristocrates déclassés

Monique Saint-Martin (de)


The loss of social position, or what the French term déclassement, suffered by a fairly substantial portion of the French aristocracy is difficult for someone living at the end of the 20th century to grasp. The phenomenon is in effect diluted and fragmented, and the professions exercised by the declassed aristocrats are varied ; furthermore, those who have experienced such a loss of status tend to elude the subject when questioned about their activities or their resources, and descendants of the nobility omit mention of those members of their families occupying positions deemed beneath them. Different constraints : disintegration of the nobility1s space, dwindling patrimony and income, economic failure, non-diversification of the resources in hand, tensions in the job market, biographical accidents and ruptures, complete indifference to higher education and training, aging, living nearly closed in upon themselves, etc. sometimes combine and lead all the more often to a loss of standing as the aristocrats concerned are frequently involved in conflictive procedures. Faced with a loss of station, they react in a number of ways, from attempting do outdo each other for the most conservative moral values to engaging in secret activities or indifference, sometimes going as far as to seek revenge. Loss of status can be followed by a gain in status, or on the contrary, continue. Déclassement does not occur once and for all, and there is no threshold to indicate when an aristocrat has become declassed.

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XXe siècle
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Electronic reference

Monique Saint-Martin (de), “Vers une sociologie des aristocrates déclassés”Cahiers d'histoire [Online], 45-4 | 2000, Online since , connection on 03 October 2022. URL:; DOI:

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