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The New Upper Class and How They Got There

by David Brooks

Pub Date: May 5th, 2000
ISBN: 0-684-85377-9
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

A lighthearted morphology that traces the evolution, mating rituals, and nervous system of a new group of social animals: the bourgeois bohemians (“Bobos”) who arose from the affluent educated class and reconciled the counterculture values of the 1960s to the entrepreneurial energies of the 1980s.

The collapse of the WASP Establishment, beginning in the 1950s, left a vacuum for a new hierarchy that would be more ethnically inclusive and meritocratic. The culture wars of the next few decades ended, according to journalist Brooks (the Weekly Standard), with a fusion of the mainstream organization man and the artistic rebel of unconventional morality. “The grand achievement of the educated elites in the 1990s was to create a way of living that lets you be an affluent success and at the same time a free spirit rebel.” Often sporting such unusual job titles as “creative paradox,” “corporate jester,” or “learning person,” Bobos work with monklike selfdiscipline because they view their jobs as intellectual and even spiritual. The world of the Bobos is tolerant, quiescent, intellectual but worldly, and instinctive. At the same time, Brooks (admitting his own membership in this caste) cheerfully underscores their many paradoxes and contradictions: for example, although they mistrust authority, Bobos haven’t hesitated to exercise control through campus speech codes and stricter zoning requirements. Like Tom Wolfe, Brooks can toss off nifty neologisms like “Latte Towns” (upscale liberal communities, often universitybased, that are fueled by gourmet coffee) and “StatusIncome Disequilibrium” (young intellectuals’ resentment that their income doesn’t match their professional achievements). Yet Brooks can neither achieve brilliant comic heights achieved by the observer of “radical chic” and “The Me Decade,” nor back his viewpoint with the spine of sharp reporting that informs even Wolfe’s fiction.

Friendly teasing of the mandarins of the Information Age—infectiously funny, but seldom getting under the skin or drawing blood. (First serial to Newsweek)