Bobos in Paradise – David Brooks

Capitalism – Bourgeois. Ambition, worldly success.

Counterculture – Bohemian. Creativity.

Starting to mix together in the late 1990s, creating a new class, Bobos (Bourgeois Bohemians)

1950s – America had a pedigreed elite, based on birth and breeding. The elite are resume gods. Managed to spend the crucial years between 16 – 24 winning the approval of their elders. WASP culture dominated. Strong sense of inherited European culture.

Predators – professions that deal with money, involve negotiating or competing or otherwise being tough and screwing others. Lawyers, traders, marketers.

Nurturers – People who deal with ideas and spend their time facilitating something. Academics, journalists, activists. Liberal Arts majors in general.

The Elites in the WASP era (1950s) lived as aristocracy, assumed it was their natural place in the world. Took it as a responsibility – civic duties, help less advanced people, etc. Had a sense of obligation to the society they lived in.

WASP dominance started to erode when universities moved to a true meritocratic admissions process. Education spread across all stratas of society, taking power away from legacy families and money.

US moved from aristocracy to meritocracy in the late 1950s, early 1960s.

1960s – new moral code starts to emerge that celebrated spiritual and intellectual ideals.

Conformity, traditionalism, and formality, ancestor worship, gender roles, privilege, elitism, self-satisfaction, all began to fall out of favor.

Meritocrats – define themselves based on their achievements. The educated class came to earn far more money, and hold more prominent positions than they ever expected.

The New Elite have now become what they had rallied against in the past (WASPs). How do they reconcile their affluence and self-respect? Elite status with egalitarian ideals. Success with spirituality. They are an elite class that has been raised to despise elites.

Worldly success vs inner virtue. The biggest tension. How do you move ahead without letting ambition wither your soul?

Class and ethnic groups – used to be enemies, but have now been overcome by the common bond of meritocratic ascent.

New Elite – influences society more through culture than through politics and civic duty (WASP methods).

Status in this age – net worth multiplied by anti materialistic attitudes. You have to both some income results while also showing how little worldly success matters to you.

Culture – arrived in the US after the 1720s, when people had amassed enough to elevate their living arrangements beyond rough, pioneer style lodgings. Began to take cues from what they saw in Europe. Difference was the Americans were not aristocrats – they were merchants.

Benjamin Franklin – espoused Bourgeois virtues – frugality, honesty, order, moderation, prudence, industry, perseverance, temperance, chastity, cleanliness, tranquility, punctuality, and humility. Practical and democratic if not heroic.

Make money, but use the wealth for self-improvement, not self-indulgence. Be comfortable with prudent moderation and loathe the extremes.

French Revolution – artists were beginning to resent the merchants who they depended on as sponsors. They hated the materialism of the middle class. The definition of success was too tied into money and productivity. Artists preferred creativity, imagination, and spirit.

Flaubert – the middle class make me want to weep and vomit at the same time!

Grana – better to be a regal outcast, than an affluent worm.

This was the dawning of bohemian culture. Accepting less material success for loftier pursuits. Art versus business and the market.

Trancendentalists – Emerson and Thoreau. Goal was to transcend materialism and rationalism to penetrate the inner spirituality which is at the core of every person.

Believed that life is too short to dedicate it fully to the pursuit of money. Material duties should be considered a stepping stone to spiritual exploration. Concluded that their American brethren worked too hard and slavishly. More concerned with standard of living than reason for living.

After WWII, the Bohemians pushed back hard against the Bourgeois values. Beats and Hippies. But after the hippy movement fizzled out, the 70s and 80s swung back in favor of more conventional values and norms.

Neoconservative argument – Bourgeois society is organized for convenience and comfort for the common man. It aims to improve material conditions, deemphasizes spiritual transcendence, classical virtue, etc. Although it’s not very inspirational, it will lift up all levels of society. They are free societies.

Bohemians seek out spiritual transcendence, but often times end up with self-indulgent nihilism.

Social division between those that focus on the machinery of self-preservation, and those that focus on the mystery of life. Van Wyck Brooks.

Genteel philosophy – humankind is ascending from crude barbarism to a state of civilized grace.

WASPs – might have been racist and elitist, but at least they weren’t consumed by ambition.

Enlightened capitalism – good values can lead to greater profits so long as there is an educated class that is willing to pay a little extra for the sake of good social progress.

The Organization Man – William Whyte, 1956. Described the life of a salary man in the 1950s. Content to be a cog in a great social machine that provides them security and opportunity. The Bohemians despised this idea for work. Needs of the group come first. Whyte advocated for individuals within the organization to stand up for themselves, and to value their own needs as highly as the needs of the organization.

The Making of a Counter Culture – Theodore Roszak, 1969. Rationalist mentality, referred to as objective consciousness, was the root of most issues with organizations. Trying to make all knowledge scientific, and assuming that a person can strip out all subjective distortion from reality.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities – Jane Jacobs. The world is too complex to be organized and centrally directed (critique of urban planning at the time and communism). Gave rise to the idea of cities, businesses, etc being live ecosystems, not machines.

Metis – a wide array of practical skills and acquired intelligence in responding to a constantly changing natural and human environment. Cannot be taught or memorized. It can only be imparted and acquired. Perpetual improvisation.

Higher selfishness. Trying to get the most out of yourself leads to finding a job that is spiritual fulfilling, social constructive, etc. Something cool. Gives you cover to dedicate your time to driving business success, which had been seen as vulgar in the past.

They have transformed work into a spiritual and intellectual vocation, so they approach their work with the fervor or artists or missionaries. Work is now an expression of their entire being!

Intellectuals in the past – dedicated life to values that could not possibly be realized in a commercial civilization. Irving Howe

Eventually the intellectuals became too tempted by the temptations of an improved standard of life. Took jobs in the government, writing for magazines, etc.

Today the belief that intellectuals should cut themselves off from commerce and pop-culture is completely gone.

The notion of the intellectual as a person who stands apart from society, renouncing certain material advantages and instead serves as some type of conscious for the nation is gone.

Intelligentsia – Russian term. Secular priesthood of writers and thinkers who participated in national life by living above it in a kind of universal space of truth and disinterestedness, rendering moral judgement on the activities below.

Today’s intellectuals tend to minimize or deny the gap between themselves and the rest of society.

Status – Income Disequilibrium – jobs with high status, but only moderate incomes. Intellectuals fall into this category.

Pleasure, Recreational Activities – Now combine the desire to strive and succeed with the impulse to experience new sensations.

Utilitarian Pleasure – even leisure is evaluated based on what it has accomplished, what we learned through it, etc.

High-status, low-amenity locations – what bohos strive for. Looking for intellectually and spiritually enhancing experiences.

Spiritual Life – hybrid. Desire for freedom and flexibility on one hand. Combined with an impulse towards orthodoxy, ordained rules, and binding connections that are based on deeper ties than rationality and choice. Freedom balanced with rootedness.

Educated Class of TOday’s Ethos – endless reinvention, self-expression, and personal growth. But they are careful not to allow free spirituality to become lazy spirituality.

Move away from customary morality (based on community norms, customs) to reflective morality (based on actually thinking about issues). Big encouragement towards the individual, and away from the communal.

The age of the anti-conformist, led them back to the group. The pendulum swung from one extreme back towards the center. The lack of age-old rituals and community made them seek it out.

People can become enslaved by an endless desire for freedom and diversity of experience.

Current trend is back to the bonds of local community and small-scale authority, away from a system that allows individual choice to trump all other values.

The transience of social ties in the secular world makes them hungry for ritual and cultural tradition. They want to serve their communities and find that faith based organizations are the best way to do so. Francis Fukuyama

Preference is for morality that is modest in it’s ambitions and quiet in it’s proclamations, not seeking to transform the entire world but to make a difference where it can. Alan Wolfe

1960s – Bohemian counterculture attacks the establishment, the suburbs, and later the Regan 1980s.

Conservatives attacked the 60s hippie movement for much of what was wrong with American life. Led to the emergence of Regan, the pendulum swing of the 1980s.

It’s all muddled together now, into centralist, compromise centric politics (circa 2000). Clinton – Gore style. Take proposals from both extremes of their parties, but somehow manage to suck all the radicalism out of them.

What do bohemian and bourgeois have in common – individualism and freedom. Bohemians – freedom of thought, of expression. Bourgeois – economic and political freedom.

Unintended consequence of the freedom – individual expression lead to erosion of community bonds. Efforts to corrode oppressive authority ends up corroding all authority. Problems of excessive individuality and freedom.

Community and control are the opposing forces being promoted to correct for the unintended consequences of individuality and freedom. Reasserting authority.

Preference now is for devolution – decentralizing power to the lowest possible level.

More interested in preserving the imperfect institutions that have already proved some usefulness than they are in taking on some flyer on some as of yet untested vision of the future.

Risk of this current class – become too comfortable with the temptations that accompany affluence. We enjoy private and local life so much that we lose any sense of national union and any sense of unique historical mission.

Amid the constant trivial preoccupations of life, ambition may lose both its force and its greatness. Tocqueville

We have allowed all of our political views to be corroded with an easy pseudo-cynicism that holds that all politicians are crooks and all public endeavor is a shame.

Healthy self-interest can become self-absorptio if it is detached from larger national or universal ideals. In the past, it was believed that public service is the highest secular service a person can perform. People were willing to make commitments that override their self-interest.

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