August 25, 2017

OF COURSE THEY DO: Law professors argue colleagues’ ‘bourgeois’ ideal is racist and classist.

I recently reread Christopher Lasch’s The Revolt of the Elites, and he has a lot to say about that. He writes:

The new elites are in revolt against “Middle America,” as they imagine it: a nation technologically backward, politically reactionary, repressive in its sexual morality, middlebrow in its tastes, smug and complacent, dull and dowdy. . . .

The culture wars that have convulsed America since the sixties are best understood as a form of class warfare, in which an enlightened elite (as it thinks of itself seeks not so much to impose its values on the majority (a majority perceived as incorrigibly racist, provincial and xenophobic), much less to persuade the majority by means of rational public debate, as to create parallel or “alternative” institutions in which it will no longer be necessary to confront the unenlightened at all.

Bourgeois culture is bad because it limits the flexibility of the elites. When the middle class was ascendant, it had the power to force bourgeois norms on elites, and even many of the poor. This led to social goods that people miss now, but it was also experienced as confining by those so constrained. Hence Vernon Parrington’s much-followed 1920s call to “Rid society of the dictatorship of the middle class,” in favor of an “enlightened” autocracy of scientists, thinkers, and artists.

Which is why bourgeois is the new transgressive.