In ways not seen since the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century, America is becoming a nation of increasingly sharply divided classes. Joel Kotkin’s The New Class Conflict breaks down these new divisions for the first time, focusing on the ascendency of two classes: the tech Oligarchy, based in Silicon Valley; and the Clerisy, which includes much of the nation’s policy, media, and academic elites.
The New Class Conflict is written largely from the point of view of those who are, to date, the losers in this class conflict: the middle class. This group, which Kotkin calls the Yeomanry, has been the traditional bulwark of American society, politics, and economy. Yet under pressure from the ascendant Oligarchs and ever more powerful Clerisy, their prospects have diminished the American dream of class mobility that has animated its history and sustained its global appeal.
The book has really caused me to think about how classes are forming in our countries in such destructive ways that give rise to social groups of people who benefit both socially and monetarily from the status quo of the current administration to the exclusion of everyone else. The tech people in the Silicon Valley seem oblivious to their own hypocrisy in terms of (not) paying taxes and even the way they treat employees. The Clerisy uses their position to promote propaganda that they see as their civic duty and are rewarded with social status and sometimes with monetary compensation. The middle class loses out but at the same time, it seems that they keep voting in the same losers who are promoting the middle classes’ destruction. It’s a strange psychological cycle, one that is troubling to say the least.