The Fourth Estate is a Centuries-old term whose meaning varies depending on who is referred to by it and why they are being denoted as such.
Its name comes from the Medieval European “Estates of the Realm” and the tripartite social hierarchy called the “Estates.” The pre-Enlightenment organizational structure is as follows:
The First Estate was the “Clergy.” Traditionally, this Estate was carried out by the Catholic Church, but the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century went on to include other Protestant denominations like the Lutheran Church of Germany or the Church of England in the United Kingdom. Its political importance in the Western world faded as the Enlightenment gave rise to Secularization among the Western peoples.
The Second Estate is the “Nobility.” The term denotes the Royal Family, their Royal House, and their subordinate nobles and aristocratic elite. Membership in this Estate was hereditary, passed down from generation to generation. One could argue that the rife inbreeding among Europe’s Royal Houses was what made the First World War resemble the “family feud” since so many of the rulers among the Allied and Central Powers all happened to be related to each other. Arguably, the lowest-ranking persons from the Second Estate are the landed gentry like the Prussian “Junker,” the English “Lord of the Manor,” but also included other lower ranks like “Knight,” “Lord,” “Lady,” and so forth. The Second Estate also faded with the First Estate since the Enlightenment, where Oligarchical and Democratic members of the Third Estate began vying among every European nation-state from the 19th Century onwards.
The Third Estate is the “Bourgeoisie.” There are two terms to denote this entity. The traditional term originally referred to the “Bürger” or the “Burgher,” the denizens of European cities who came from the merchant, craftsmen, and artisan classes. The term also, at one point, referred to the rural commoners who tilled the soil of their Land outside the cities, the latter of whom went on to become the “Proletariat” of Marxism-Leninism.
The Fourth Estate is the most recent designation, emerging from the Enlightenment, becoming the most contentious of the four insofar as they are still two competing definitions.
Either the term refers to the “Mass Media” or it denotes the “Proletariat.”
The earliest-known origins of the term referring to the “Mass Media” can be traced back to the British Parliament in 1787, when Edmund Burke originally coined it as a derogatory insult toward journalists reporting on the affairs of the House of Commons. This definition has gone on to become the most popular definition since the 1920s, as technological advancements in Mass Communications, Mass Advertising, and Mass Marketing applications gave rise to a Liberal Capitalist Culture of conspicuous Consumerism and Producerism by controlling thoughts and emotions and compelling average people into buying goods and services that they neither need nor want.
The “Proletariat,” as stated earlier, was originally rural commoners who found themselves displaced from their ancestral farmlands and forced to find Meaningless Work in overcrowded cities due to the ungovernable technological innovations of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th Century. What the Proletariat is against was not the “lower” and “middle” classes of the Bourgeoisie, but the New Money-types among the Old Money-type “Großbürger” (Grand Burgher), the wealthy upper classes above the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat. These businessmen, industrial magnates, bankers, and financiers, originally commanding the ears of the First and Second Estates, now constitute as an Oligarchical ruling class in most Liberal Capitalist regimes and most of the Western world. It was Liberal Capitalism that enabled them to supplant the First and Second Estates and create the irreparable split between the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat which has gone on to become the textbook definition of the Class Struggle within Marxism-Leninism.
This Blog is dedicated to the legacy of the true Fourth Estate, the generations of rural commoners who were displaced from their ancestral farmlands and forced to find Meaningless Work for long hours and low wages in the cities. It finds its inspiration in the now-forgotten Italian painting, Il Quarto Stato (The Fourth Estate), created by Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo between 1899 and 1901.