This book has been mentioned again recently in reference to “Coming Apart” by Charles Murray. It was at least somewhat inspired by “The Bell Curve” in that it takes the changing nature of elite education as a starting point.
Published in 2000, it represents the social truce that came about during the Clinton years. Liberals controlled the government, but conservatives kept government spending under control. Liberals felt victorious, and conservatives felt vindicated. This fell apart with the 2000 presidential election, and was totally wrecked by 9/11. The elite that Brooks sets out to describe was comfortable, confident and secure then. They are still comfortable, more aggressive and arrogant than ever, but rattled by refusal of large segments of the population to submit.
Brooks’s thesis is that the elite changed a great deal starting around 1960 with the advent of standardized testing for admission to colleges. This is Murray’s thesis, but they draw different conclusions from it. Brooks claims that the old, stuffy, conformist WASP elite changed a great deal and became more countercultural from the admittance of outsiders- especially Jews like Brooks. Brooks is a little right, but mostly wrong. Maybe he realizes it because after stating it, he doesn’t really develop or defend the idea, just catalogs the changing tastes of affluent, educated people.
The truth is the elite has to reinvent itself occasionally. The major one for the moral elite was going from Protestant Christian to a morality based on pseudo-social science, as we saw with “Degenerate Moderns” by E. Michael Jones. Having gone from being mostly businessmen and clergymen to having many members in professions like the newly activist legal profession, college professors, journalists, and publishing made them want to redefine their morality and reason for moral authority to a different basis. This was a much more profound change than what happened in the 60’s, which was mostly just a renewal of the same movement.
Brooks attributes the changes of elite behavior to the creation of a “creative” class involved in advertising and marketing, computer programming, and new businesses. The real reason was that as society achieved mass affluence, simply being affluent didn’t make you stand out any more. Living in a house in the suburbs and having a big car used to mean you were somebody, but post-WWII every factory worker had that. It is hardly a coincidence that the 50’s is when affluence began to be seen as boring, futile, and soul-deadening. Raw power was not as much financial as it had been; in the age of television, control of that medium, and using it to define what was desirable and good, was more important than cash. Elite status came to be defined more by specialized, expensive consumer goods, anti-majority sexual and personal attitudes, and certain kinds of intellectual beliefs.
Brooks spends a lot of time skewering these people. He has some sympathy for the counter-reaction, which was the first appearance of the “neo-conservatives”. Neo-conservative, I feel I say again, are people who are fundamentally comfortable with liberalism but dislike its excesses. These right-liberals are what passes for conservatives in the US; Ronald Reagan can be put in this category, and certainly David Brooks, now “conservative” columnist for the New York Times, does. Brooks though admits from the starts he’s fundamentally one of them and likes most of this culture. Of course, if he didn’t, he couldn’t be who he is and hold the position he does.
It would be amusing, as it is intended to be, if these people weren’t so incredibly destructive. They don’t make anything useful. They make advertising, soul- and brain-killing TV shows, laws mandating feminism, homosexuality, racial equality, teach these things in universities, offshore jobs, and generally destroy a decent and livable society for their own power and profit.
The “Bobos in paradise” are a hostile elite. The hostile elite is not Jewish, or primarily Jewish, and never has been. It has mostly been WASP, and it has usually been hostile, with a little less hostility in the New Deal and post-WWII era.