Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class And How They Got There (Anglais) Broché – 20 août 2001
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Description du produit
This book started with a series of observations. After four and a half years abroad, I returned to the United States with fresh eyes and was confronted by a series of peculiar juxtapositions. WASPy upscale suburbs were suddenly dotted with arty coffeehouses where people drank little European coffees and listened to alternative music. Meanwhile, the bohemian downtown neighborhoods were packed with multimillion-dollar lofts and those upscale gardening stores where you can buy a faux-authentic trowel for $35.99. Suddenly massive corporations like Microsoft and the Gap were on the scene, citing Gandhi and Jack Kerouac in their advertisements. And the status rules seemed to be turned upside down. Hip lawyers were wearing those teeny tiny steel-framed glasses because now it was apparently more prestigious to look like Franz Kafka than Paul Newman.
The thing that struck me as oddest was the way the old categories no longer made sense. Throughout the twentieth century it's been pretty easy to distinguish between the bourgeois world of capitalism and the bohemian counterculture. The bourgeoisie were the square, practical ones. They defended tradition and middle-class morality. They worked for corporations, lived in suburbs, and went to church. Meanwhile, the bohemians were the free spirits who flouted convention. They were the artists and the intellectuals -- the hippies and the Beats. In the old schema the bohemians championed the values of the radical 1960s and the bourgeois were the enterprising yuppies of the 1980s.
But I returned to an America in which the bohemian and the bourgeois were all mixed up. It was now impossible to tell an espresso-sipping artist from a cappuccino-gulping banker. And this wasn't just a matter of fashion accessories. I found that if you investigated people's attitudes toward sex, morality, leisure time, and work, it was getting harder and harder to separate the antiestablishment renegade from the pro-establishment company man. Most people, at least among the college-educated set, seemed to have rebel attitudes and social-climbing attitudes all scrambled together. Defying expectations and maybe logic, people seemed to have combined the countercultural sixties and the achieving eighties into one social ethos.
After a lot of further reporting and reading, it became clear that what I was observing is a cultural consequence of the information age. In this era ideas and knowledge are at least as vital to economic success as natural resources and finance capital. The intangible world of information merges with the material world of money, and new phrases that combine the two, such as "intellectual capital" and "the culture industry," come into vogue. So the people who thrive in this period are the ones who can turn ideas and emotions into products. These are highly educated folk who have one foot in the bohemian world of creativity and another foot in the bourgeois realm of ambition and worldly success. The members of the new information age elite are bourgeois bohemians. Or, to take the first two letters of each word, they are Bobos.
These Bobos define our age. They are the new establishment. Their hybrid culture is the atmosphere we all breathe. Their status codes now govern social life. Their moral codes give structure to our personal lives. When I use the word establishment, it sounds sinister and elitist. Let me say first, I'm a member of this class, as, I suspect, are most readers of this book. We're not so bad. All societies have elites, and our educated elite is a lot more enlightened than some of the older elites, which were based on blood or wealth or military valor. Wherever we educated elites settle, we make life more interesting, diverse, and edifying.
This book is a description of the ideology, manners, and morals of this elite. I start with the superficial things and work my way to the more profound. After a chapter tracing the origins of the affluent educated class, I describe its shopping habits, its business culture, its intellectual, social, and spiritual life. Finally, I try to figure out where the Bobo elite is headed. Where will we turn our attention next? Throughout the book I often go back to the world and ideas of the mid-1950s. That's because the fifties were the final decade of the industrial age, and the contrast between the upscale culture of that time and the upscale culture of today is stark and illuminating. Furthermore, I found that many of the books that really helped me understand the current educated class were written between 1955 and 1965, when the explosion in college enrollments, so crucial to many of these trends, was just beginning. Books like The Organization Man, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Affluent Society, The Status Seekers, and The Protestant Establishment were the first expressions of the new educated class ethos, and while the fever and froth of the 1960s have largely burned away, the ideas of these 1950s intellectuals continue to resonate.
Finally, a word about the tone of this book. There aren't a lot of statistics in these pages. There's not much theory. Max Weber has nothing to worry about from me. I just went out and tried to describe how people are living, using a method that might best be described as comic sociology. The idea is to get at the essence of cultural patterns, getting the flavor of the times without trying to pin it down with meticulous exactitude. Often I make fun of the social manners of my class (I sometimes think I've made a whole career out of self-loathing), but on balance I emerge as a defender of the Bobo culture. In any case, this new establishment is going to be setting the tone for a long time to come, so we might as well understand it and deal with it.
Copyright © 2000 by David Brooks
Revue de presse
Chris Tucker The Dallas Morning News Thanks to Brooks, bobos will join preppies, yuppies, and angry white males in the American lexicon.
Emily Prager The Wall Street Journal Hilarious and enlightening.
Jonathan Yardley The Washington Post Perceptive and amusing. [Brooks] has identified the salient characteristics of this new elite, and he describes them with accuracy and wit.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com
“Universities tolerate tattoos and piercing that would have seemed outrageous in the early 1950s, but they crack down on fraternity drinking rituals that would have seemed unexceptional. We feel less strict with our children, but in fact we intervene in their lives far more than parents did in the 1950s.”
I mean, I work in academia and don’t get it. A guy who wears a tie, smokes a cigarette, and likes to drink at the college pub is more of a threat than someone who looks like he just left a Slipknot concert. And yes, he’s the guy sitting next to your daughter in her “History of Sexuality” class at her private college. So this book resonates with me.
Also, Brooks’ insight on scantily clad women everywhere one looks is hilarious:
“To get a firsthand glimpse of these new codes, go down to your local park in the summertime. You’ll see women jogging or running in sports bras and skin-tight spandex pants. […] Women running around in their underwear in public. They’re not exposing themselves for the sake of exhibitionism. Any erotic effect of their near nudity is counteracted by their expressions of grim determination. They are working out.”
The preceding quote is amusingly accurate. It’s like I am reading a Tom Wolfe novel!
He makes several other good points: Americans no longer worship God, really, they worship health and their bodies. (I suppose it is truly a temple, as our Sunday School teachers taught us—before the Protestant decline in the U.S., which Brooks ably covers!) Also, the “intellectuals” today are bit soft—they go to bed early and are more concerned with getting their kids to school and making sure the “I Support NPR” bumper sticker is clean on the Prius—rather than discussing hermeneutics or Jorge Luis Borges, for example, over some whiskey and beer. I mean, it seems the Christopher Hitchens days of drinking and talking all night might be gone.
The text runs a bit long—he could have cut it down by 50 pages or so—and at times his commentary is too exaggerated, but overall this is a book that historians will read 20, 30 years from now in order to understand the pre-9/11 gilded age of the 1980s and 1990s. And yes, I hate to say it, but it is refreshing that Brooks is a moderate, and not completely consumed by political ideology.
Bobos are bourgeois bohemians, though I suppose they could also be bohemian bourgeois. Jerry Rubin famously went from the activist trenches to the world of the investor. The Clintons went from the world of the antiwar movement to the world of the futures trader. While he mentions exemplary cases such as this, Brooks is interested in something far more subtle. By turns humorous, silly and hypocritical, the decisions made by Bobos can also be seen as pleasantly moderate and, in their own way, disciplined and responsible.
Bobos still resist authority but they make exceptions for, e.g., the health of the body. They will not be bothered by activities that would have riled Victorians--women jogging in little more than spandex underwear--so long as they are doing so in an effort to better themselves and preserve their youth and health. They do not countenance materialism that goes beyond the necessary (the purchase of luxury yachts, e.g.) but they are quite prepared to spend tens of thousands of dollars for a double oven with a six-burner cook surface. Gold faucet taps would disgust them but natural-surface slate showers they would see as de riguer. Where the sixties' radicals sometimes confined themselves to a diet that could be purchased by a third world peasant's wages, the Bobos shop at Whole Foods.
Brooks charts their patterns of consumption, their business and intellectual lives, their views of pleasure, their politics and their spirituality. The writing is simply beautiful, the examples by turns hilarious and touching. The book is more readable than any book with its range of reference and seriousness of purpose that I can recall. (It has also sparked a sequel: On Paradise Drive.)
Bobos in Paradise should be paired with Charles Murray's Coming Apart. Both deal with the ways in which educated elites have separated themselves from the poor and both show the ways in which the extremes of the sixties have been transcended by elites while they have nearly destroyed the lives of the poor.
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