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The Bourgeois Bohemian Today

Here’s a pretty pithy paragraph summarizing ME on the bourgeois bohemians (or Bobos, as named by that "it takes one to know one," David Brooks).

Here, quickly, are three points for discussion on the Bobos today:

1. They are the WHITE PEOPLE summarized in the book that describes what they like. So they are really for Obama, for bohemian or cultural reasons. That’s why Bobo Republicans (who remained GOP for bourgeois reasons) switched over to Barack. McCain and Palin, in different ways, were anti-bohemian candidates (and to some extent even anti-bourgeois--in the sense of anti- the class described by Marx). Many an alleged conservative said to ME: At least the CULTURE will be better with Obama as president. And certainly the people who specialize in caring about cultural stuff are happier.

2. Bobos lack compassion for those who don’t flourish in our unprecedented meritocracy. Preferring the more serene Eastern religions, they don’t practice or even recognize the virtue of CHARITY. That’s why studies show that conservatives give much more time and money to charitable activities, and they are quite typically motivated by a religion that emphasizes personal love when they do so. "Bourgeois Christian" is more charitable than "bourgeois bohemian," which is why it sometimes pains me when Crunchy Cons paint ordinary Republicans as simply bourgeois and offer a criticism of them that has many bohemian features. That’s not to say that bourgeois bohemians are adverse to government doing more to make everyone (especially themselves) less anxious and more secure) and to relieve them of the burden of thinking about the poor.

3. Bourgeois bohemian, as I’ve explained, tends to be, just beneath the surface, more bourgeois than bohemian. That accounts for the increasing puritanical, prohibitionist paranoia when it comes to one’s own health and safety, and safety--as in safe sex--has seemingly become the whole of Bobo morality. (Let me be clear that I’m not against health and safety; it’s just ridiculously degrading as the whole of morality.) So FEAR would drive the Bobos back to the Republicans. The Democrats are vulnerable to new crime waves, perceptions of dangerous weakness in foreign policy, and runaway inflation. Bill Voegeli was surely right that the Republicans victories against the forces and evildoers that scare us (Guiliani, Reagan, even Bush) are the cause of Bobo complacency. If the FEAR FACTOR remains low or tolerable, Republicans should target non-Bobo voters, who are actually less fearful, more admirable, and have more fun.

Discussions - 7 Comments

I have read these posts with their swirl of self-involved phrases and ephemeral distinctions. Read some Brooks and Lawler. The made-up names are annoying, to be sure. It is like a comic-book sociology, a mixture of trite phrases, half-baked categories. No one self-identifies with these hybrids. They speak little to the real forces for the social production of subjectivity today. But I have finally figured it out. These conservatives actually admire those in these too-cute categories. Brooks' class-consciousness is ok, so long as it is done with a little humor, and those so labelled 'act' and can be counted to vote on the basis of those labels as markers of social separation. This is the conservative Christian class-consciousness, articulated in a non-threatening way, the generation and corruption of groupings of social subjectivities, setting the table for the background political strategy of how to exploit middle-class fear to win in 2010.

Bobos lack compassion for those who don’t flourish in our unprecedented meritocracy. Preferring the more serene Eastern religions, they don’t practice or even recognize the virtue of CHARITY.

Have you ever met anyone, let alone had a conversation with anyone, who meets this description? I have never met anyone like this, and I'm pretty confident that I run in much more leftist, "bobo"-esque circles than you.

Ren--what is wrong with comic book sociology?

I have been watching the Bill Moyers show with his interview with Robert Reich in a discussion of health care reform. It is a discussion of all kind of technocratic solution to a problem I don't think anyone defends.

I guess Bobos like solutions that provide workable solutions.

However, it is interesting that in the push to make things more public, the alternative is always free market economics and capitalism. We must have a more robust public because otherwise we will have ruthless capitalism, and this will be the end of democracy.

First of all, I'm not sure how democracy is better served through greater bureaucratic rationality. I suppose we will be free in our cultural and sexual lives, and we can trade that out for more security and regimentation in our bodily maintenance.

This seems to be an argument that is dominant, but as an educator at a public institution I wonder where this push to the public ends. I have a Thucydides reading group at my college and we have deliberately avoided any college sponsorship. It is probably pretentious on our part--if we strike the pose that our independence is what makes us good. However, as soon as all things get pushed to the public, we may not have much for ourselves.

Without needing to defend capitalism, one can still defend certain private prerogatives. But this seems to be an argument that doesn't get much play. It either gets viewed as a defense of crass capitalism (far from it), or as rank antisociality.

All sociology is comic book sociology--or caricatures drawn in neon letters to make a point.

Good point by Professor Lawler. The BoBos are simply self-indulgent liberal bourgeois, hardly bohemian at all. Bohemianism, for better or worse, implies 1) a degree of seriousness about either the arts or the intellect; 2) a willingness to live at odds with conventional social rules; a degree of risk-taking in order to savor life's variety. BoBo's obsessive, cosseting child-rearing is not bohemian. Nor is their cult of the body or their obsession with no-risk levels of health and safety. Nor is their intellectual conformism. I could go on. I would question whether fear is likely to drive them back to the Republicans (many weren't Republicans, or pro-Republican, to begin with). Those Democrats who need centrist and soft-liberal votes can always tailor their messages on cultural issues (including crime) and foreign policy. I would agree that BoBo economic interests, if too blatantly and obviously harmed by liberal policies, could level the playing a field a bit politically.

John: A Thucydides reading group? Where?

"At least the CULTURE will be better with Obama as president. And certainly the people who specialize in caring about cultural stuff are happier."

So you are saying that the non-profit sector(those who specialize in cultural stuff) likes Obama?

Perhaps, but it is hard to argue that MBA's specialize in economics to the exclusion of cultural stuff, if anything the two seem difficult to seperate.

I.e. Oprah, an ammazing business and story about a black female entrepreneur whose telivision show can make or break businesses and authors.

The question then is are the specialists of cultural stuff not simply a media marketing conglomorate.

In this sense even Brooks is someone who specializes in cultural stuff.

The businessman who produces a product that no one in the culture likes will go broke.

Perhaps the political party that has no cultural support will also go broke... but here again it is damn near impossible for the Republican party to go broke. At times Pepsi Democrats will look to be the taste of Generation Next, and the Coke Republicans will think of putting out a Coke Zero Conservatism, there will be backlash and Coke Classic Republicans will look to push a taste infringement suit against the imposters(but I am just playing games with commericals now). Albeit Coke Classic Conservatives might make peace with the Coke Zero Conservatives when they discover that Hugo Chavez banned Coke Zero from selling in Venezula.

FYI. Oprah is considering putting out a book club for men, it might include Thucydides...then again if Brad Pitt and George Cloney are already fans...

Is this Bohemian?

Sorry, had to do it.

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