Lion of the Blogosphere

The bobos project: introduction

Bobos in Paradise, by David Brooks, was published in the year 2000. Strangely, until now I’ve never read it. I think that I shrugged it off because it had the feel of Paul Fussell lite. (As you should know, Paul Fussell was the University of Pennsylvania English professor who wrote the book Class, and who sadly died earlier this year.)

These Bobos define our age. They are the new establishment. Their hybrid culture is the atmosphere we all breathe. Their status codes now govern our social life. Their moral codes give structure to our personal lives.

Boy did that sound pretentious the first time I read it! But in retrospect, perhaps David Brooks was right? I am pretty sure that Brooks is writing about the same class described in Christian Lander’s blog which he began in 2008 and unfortunately no long updates. (But Lander got paid a lot of money to write a book which was a rehash of his blog posts.) This also seems to be the evolution of the “class X” which Fussell described rather poorly in his last chapter, or perhaps class X has merged with the upper-middle class.

So it seems really essential that I should read David Brooks’ book to see if I might learn anything new about this very important class which does indeed define our culture because they control the New York Times and all other respectable media. Rush Limbaugh is, perhaps, not a bobo, but no one takes him seriously.

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.

I think that this sickeningly lovely tribute to the bobo class turned me off initially to reading the rest of the book. Clearly the book can’t have anything like the biting comedy of Fusell’s Class if it starts out in love with bobos.

One thing I do know is that David Brook’s attempt to coin a new word, bobo, a shortening of bourgeois bohemian, didn’t stick. I hardly ever see the term bobo used anywhere. “Bobo” is more likely to refer to Mike Bobo who is the offensive coordinator of the University of Georgia football team, or a French restaurant in Greenwich Village.

Stay tuned for a chapter-by-chapter review of Bobos in Paradise.

* * *

Technologically, I am going to be reading this book on the Sony Reader app for the iPad. If you, too, have some sort of tablet or reader device, you can be reading along with me in minutes, perhaps even seconds. You’re probably better off going with Kindle because Amazon charges less money for the same books, but I had $41 of credit at the Sony store left over from a $50 gift certificate I received a while back.

If you are frugal, you can save a lot of money by buying a used dead tree book from one of those Amazon used booksellers, but then you’ll have to wait for your book to get snail-mailed. I am pretty sure a bobo would buy the e-book.

* * *

Chucho writes in a comment:

I recently read “Class” and was wowed by its insights and humor until the final chapter. I think at the time it was written, the early 80s, the boomers were still pretty young and didn’t completely dominate US culture they way they would by the time Brooks’ book was written. What I think Fussell failed to anticipate was that the consumer, status-driven ethos that he thought “Class X” abjured would instead merge with that class’s bohemian, arts-centric taste and lifestyle. Fussell’s “Class X” was a marginal phenomenon of the previous generation (people like the Beats), but for the Boomers (a much richer cohort) a larger segment of the population was able to become “artists” or at least pretend they were. It’s almost laughable to read the “Class X” chapter because he essentially describes Bobo/SWPL/hipster taste but somehow thinks that these people are immune to status competition, when in fact those groups are precisely defined by their relentless drive to refine their tastes and lifestyles vs. the dreaded ‘middle class’. But what is more anxiously middle class today than driving a hybrid, shopping at a farmer’s market, listening to NPR, etc?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 28, 2012 at EST pm

Posted in Bobos

18 Responses

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  1. Lion,

    i loved the book. But I don’t really understand… does being a bobo lead to certain political views? For example, I am a bobo and I am in favor of inexpensive legal pot… if unemployed young men could buy pot very inexpensively, wouldn’t many of them spend their time mellow and baked rather than committing crimes?

    Second of all, if the police stopped investigating pot dealing, couldn’t the police spend more time investigating violent crime?

    Is there anyone else on this blog that agrees with me — anyone else who doesn’t use pot and who doesn’t want his family members or his employees using pot, but who wants it legal on the theory that violent crime falls dramatically when pot is made legal and inexpensive?

    I mean, clearly if you are a bobo you are controlled… you are not addicted to drugs. But does that mean you would be in favor of legal pot or against it ?

    afd;jksdsakjf

    December 28, 2012 at EST pm

    • See, the problem is that once you think pot should be legal on any theory, you’re a lot more likely to try it yourself and probably like it.

      The mellow-maked-therefore-less-criminal theory is not borne out by my extensive job experience dealing with lower-class cannabis users, unfortunately. Marijuana is a mind-altering substance, and as any such substance, it makes the user more prone to judgment errors, including escalation of conflict.

      Sheila Tone

      December 29, 2012 at EST pm

    • anyone else who doesn’t use pot and who doesn’t want his family members or his employees using pot, but who wants it legal on the theory that violent crime falls dramatically when pot is made legal and inexpensive?

      I’ve been advocating drugging the low IQ underclass with weed (and any drug that may mellow them out) for a couple of months now. Weed would also work to lower the underclass’ fertility because frequent pot heads and their lovers complain about how weed lowers their libido. Because of their poor impulse control, the underclass would be most likely to use legalized weed at the highest frequency levels. Reduced Sex drive would lead to statistically lower sexual activity and thus lower underclass birth rates.

      The Undiscovered Jew

      December 30, 2012 at EST pm

  2. The term “Bobos” comes from the French “bourgeois bohème” and has been used since the 19th century. You can still hear it from to time in Paris and the far right used this word to criticize the upper classes during the 2012 presidential election. Fussel’s book is much more interesting in that he described an emerging American out of reach upper class which is now the international elite. Brooks is extremely conventional and is more centered on the upper middle class consensus.

    Frugal people can also just download a free version of the book and read it on their iPad. It’s very easy to find.

    ColdBloodedKisser

    December 28, 2012 at EST pm

    • No, the conjunction of the two French words is due to Brooks.

      Douglas Knight

      December 29, 2012 at EST pm

      • As transcribed in your wikipédia link, “bourgeois bohème” has been widely used in France after the 1968 revolution and made its way from a small coterie to a more widespread use. 30 years later Brooks just shortened the expression to Bobos.

        ColdBloodedKisser

        December 29, 2012 at EST pm

  3. Contrary to that excerpted statement ( I haven’t read the book yet) the bobo I have known hide the true motivations for their actions, even from themselves. I didn’t have a high opinion of Brooks although that has changed with this : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELKmuXGzJ3s . It is too long.

    They create such a fug of disinformation that those without money or connections to protect themselves or their kin from the negative consequences that result from following their lead are left bereft and bitter.

    Re: pot. I agree with you that new research has found that prolongs and early use changes the plasticity of the brain and that in those with suceptability it can trigger adverse psychological events. Any google will find this eveidence of any medical level suitable.

    If you are a bobo you are likely a controlled pot user likley because of your genetic predispostion AGAINST addiction not to mention those good habits of self control you have been brought up with. Your imaginary friend whose dad left when he was born, the loser dad, is probably genetically predisposed to have THC trigger all sorts of negative psych consequences for him. Will he have the money for a private hospital stay or a job that mentors him away from those choices or will he be one of those that start the slide into psychosis?

    These are the choices that no-one speaks about that are NOT really indivual choices. They seem like choices because culture clothes the genes so closely it is hard to tell one from the other. The wearer doesn’t want anyone to look too closely, in case the flattery stops because 50% of the results are due to genes not hard work. The onlooker doesn’t want to look too closely in case the result is unachieveable because 50% of the results are due to genes.

    MT Isa Miner

    December 28, 2012 at EST pm

  4. ” 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. ”

    What a pompous asshole. These people do nothing of the kind. They literally ruin everything they touch.

    anonymous

    December 28, 2012 at EST pm

  5. If the bobos just ruined it for themselves I would be inclined to live and let live. But to twist Algernon’s quip: what is the good of the upper classes if they don’t set a good example? Noblesse oblige?

    Particularly for those of our communities less able to plan ahead- those with less ability to use time preferences and self restraint than others.

    Unfortunately, everyone does mimic those with the time and money to look fashionable and young and beautiful, external attributes are valued over character.

    MT Isa Miner

    December 29, 2012 at EST am

  6. “Rush Limbaugh is, perhaps, not a bobo, but no one takes him seriously.”

    Right. That’s why the elite media scrupulously ignores the man with 20 million listeners.

    DaveinHackensack

    December 29, 2012 at EST am

  7. You could be really frugal and borrow it from your local library. I doubt there will be any holds on a book published in 2000.

    gaiaguy

    December 29, 2012 at EST am

  8. Lion,

    One of the first thing the Brooks noticed is assortive mating where the elite marry each other and the elite stopped having trophy wives. He also noticed that the elite had started marrying later. The elite no longer marry their college sweatheart if for no other reason they no longer have college sweathearts and have to wait until after law school, B-School, and establishing a career.

    superdestroyer

    December 29, 2012 at EST am

    • I don’t know about that. It’s pretty common to see marriages where the bride and groom met in undergraduate school.

      The Lion

      December 29, 2012 at EST am

      • Considering that the median age of first marriage for college educate white if near 30 years, I doubt many elites are meeting their future wife when they are 20 and then getting married 10 years later.

        superdestroyer

        December 29, 2012 at EST pm

  9. If you want a rap to the side of the head
    Explore Vilfredo Pareto’s “foxes & lions” Speculators-Rentiers approach in
    80/20 Theory and The Circulation of Elites

    Here’s a google excerpt:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=rjUG8BsOsMQC&pg=PA53&lpg=PA53&dq=foxes+rentiers+lions&source=bl&ots=3fXPPpsBbo&sig=VbgfXFJwIc8xsUf1PvVzrpUcgP4&hl=en&sa=X&ei=IQvfUOeMFoKlqgHC3YDICg&ved=0CEAQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=foxes%20rentiers%20lions&f=false

    It is an eye-opener; it was, for me. I think it’s time I share it with my fellow writers and audience, as it explains much of what happened…and what shall.

    Firepower

    December 29, 2012 at EST am

  10. I recently read “Class” and was wowed by its insights and humor until the final chapter. I think at the time it was written, the early 80s, the boomers were still pretty young and didn’t completely dominate US culture they way they would by the time Brooks’ book was written. What I think Fussell failed to anticipate was that the consumer, status-driven ethos that he thought “Class X” abjured would instead merge with that class’s bohemian, arts-centric taste and lifestyle. Fussell’s “Class X” was a marginal phenomenon of the previous generation (people like the Beats), but for the Boomers (a much richer cohort) a larger segment of the population was able to become “artists” or at least pretend they were. It’s almost laughable to read the “Class X” chapter because he essentially describes Bobo/SWPL/hipster taste but somehow thinks that these people are immune to status competition, when in fact those groups are precisely defined by their relentless drive to refine their tastes and lifestyles vs. the dreaded ‘middle class’. But what is more anxiously middle class today than driving a hybrid, shopping at a farmer’s market, listening to NPR, etc?

    chucho

    December 29, 2012 at EST am

  11. Class X was a catchall for those who didn’t fit into the class structure. Given the modest correlation between IQ and income this is a lot of people.

    Nicolai Yezhov

    December 30, 2012 at EST am

  12. […] This is another in my continuing series of blog posts about the book Bobos in Paradise by David Brooks. The previous post in this series was about bobo intellectual life, and the first post in the series was the introduction. […]


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