Bobos in Paradise : The New Upper Class and How They Got There Paperback
by David Brooks
It used to be pretty easy to distinguish between the bourgeois world of capitalism and the bohemian counterculture.
The bourgeois worked for corporations, wore grey, and went to church.
The bohemians were the artists and intellectuals. Bohemians championed the values of the radical 1960's; bourgeois were the enterprising yuppies of the 1980's.
Now the 'bo's' are all mixed up and it is impossible to tell an expresso sipping artist from a cappuccino-gulping banker.
In attitudes toward sex, morality, leisure time and work, it is hard to separate the renegade from the company man.
The new establishment has combined the countercultural sixties and the achieving eighties into one social ethos.
These Bobos define our age. Their hybrid culture is the atmosphere we breathe, their status codes govern social life and their moral codes govern ethics and influence our politics.
Our hybrid Bobo culture is going to be dominating society for a long time to come.
Read all about it in this serious and witty essay on how we live now.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 288 pages, index
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
- Publication Date: 20/08/2001
- Category: Popular culture
- ISBN: 9780684853789
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Showing 1 - 5 of 10 reviews.
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Review by heidilove
brooks claims to be looking at the bohemian bourgeoise [the first two letters of each creating the word bobo], but this is actually a clever deceit. a better and more accurate title would be How to Be A Conservative in the Post-Woodstock Era. A fascinating analysis, welll-written, and well-delivered.
Review by alyce413
A really interesting book on a shift in our economic and intellectual struture in America.
Review by nog
Brooks assumes that the Bobos at some point in their lives have shared counter cultural, radical, and creative ideas associated with bohemians. Is this the case, or are they merely tourists of the lifestyle? I am reminded of John Lennon's observation about "Day Trippers", the weekend bohemians of the 60s. B. would have us think that the bourgeois synthesized Bohemia into the Bobo, but the book does not provide the evidence for some such Hegelian process. Instead, he runs down a seemingly inexhaustible (and exhausting) list of their lifestyle choices, concentrating especially on their consumer habits, sometimes to humorous effect. Eventually, though, the act becomes tiresome, and he rather lamely attempts some serious analysis.This is where the book falls flat, and the thud is deafening. If the Bobo had truly incorporated bohemian values into the upper class sensibility, we would not see them purchasing SUVs, for instance. These vehicles get terrible gas mileage, which is incompatible with the Bobos' supposed deep caring for the environment. Also, these expensive vehicles pose a danger to those less fortunate motorists who can only afford a small car. Such contradictions can be found elsewhere in the opening chapters (electricity-gobbling appliances, for instance); they should be kept in mind when the reader gets to the weak arguments of Bobo morality and spirituality in the later chapters.B. claims that the Bobos are concerned with preservation of America's older neighborhoods, to save older structures and our heritage, yet the facts speak to an utter lack of concern of the Bobos when it comes to their own "needs." Witness the gentrification of the Mission District in San Francisco, which has forced the traditional Hispanic population out because of sky-high rents. There is a noticeable lack of mention of the lower classes in the book, in fact. The Bobo is depicted unintentionally as a classic elitist, with a narcissistic streak that would make the 70s "Me Decade" seem tame by comparison. Thus, the horrific reaction some readers might have when they discover that B. not only thinks the Bobos are a positive force of nature, but that he counts himself as one.If B. were approaching the subject critically, he would undoubtedly have tackled the psychology of the Bobo, and why the fascination with bohemian culture. He never tackles this very key point; the possible issues of guilt and self-esteem, for instance. Or how about the Info Age obsession with research? Is this lifestyle optimized based on careful study of all the facts? Is the incorporation of the bohemian a sign of neurosis instead? Don't the descriptions of consumption sound like classic obsessive-compulsive disorder? How does the Bobo grapple with Bobo ethical questions, such as the dilemma posed by optimizing his lifestyle choice by buying the "best" coffee from a plantation that exploits its workers, against the "lesser" coffee that would be more politically correct? The more you ponder these contradictions, the more you are apt to recognize the absurdity of buying B.'s arguments.B. later talks of the Bobo spiritual life, wherein they pick and choose freely from an ever-changing menu of religious beliefs. Again, the consumer approach to salvation. Yet the earlier chapters allow one to reach a different conclusion: that the real spiritual instinct has been supplanted by entertainment itself, in the form of food, gadgets, and popular culture that are considered superior and "hip". It is this obsessive approach to lifestyle that fills the void left by the decline of true religious commitment. Religion then becomes yet another item for research and eventual consumption.As this is a conservative's project to convince us of the likability of the Bobo over previous elite classes, he distracts the reader from his true purpose: to celebrate the death of true bohemianism, by co-opting it and robbing it of its alternative world view, which stood in opposition to that of the global exploits of the bourgeois in the realms of commerce and politics. This is the core piece of bohemianism that the Bobo rejects, which makes the so-called synthesis impossible. A much, much better analysis of the Elites and their effect on the erosion of democracy worldwide is presented in Christopher Lasch's "The Revolt of the Elites," which is the work of a true intellectual, not the faux sort exemplified by David Brooks.
Review by Kplatypus
Yet another book about the American class system. This, as opposed to Class: a guide through the American Status System, is somewhat more up-to-date and less cranky. The author self-identifies as a member of the class he is discussing, the Bohemian Bourgeoisie, or the educated elite, aka BoBos, and seems extremely pleased with himself about, well, everything.First he explains how the BoBos came to be (basically as a synthesis of '60s radicalism and pre-'50s ambitions) and then how they, with their "meritocracy" came to take the place of the monied classes as the social leaders. He then spends the rest of the book detailing what it means to be a BoBo. He tells us what they wear, what they eat, what they buy and buy, where they travel, what they spend money on, and so on. He ends by stating that the BoBo age is here to stay and peace and prosperity will abound for those wise enough to buy into their belief system.Anyone who has lived in the Bay Area will immediately recognize the people he is describing- think Noe Valley, Mill Valley, actually, anywhere in Marin pretty much, Berkeley, parts of Oakland, etc. Also, the Village in NYC has a lot of them these days, as do parts of LA, though it's more spread out there. My point, though, is that yes, these people exist. However, the author made a few egregious mistakes. First, he wrote this in 2000.Yes, this is definitely a pre-9/11 book. A lot of what he says about the American economy and American social values are going to seem just as dated as those in Fussell's book. Right- we're living in the age of global supremacy, peace, and prosperity, which is why it cost me $9 to buy a coffee when I was in England this summer. However, back in 1999, or 2000, I can see how it might have looked that way, especially for someone really optimistic.The other mistake that really bothered me is that this author takes a lot of good ideas/motives/goals and then turns them all wrong. Like being environmentally conscious while wanting to own nice things. These are both reasonable goals, right? His solution? Buy a Range Rover! Wait, what?! How in the world is that environmentally conscious? And so on. The book is filled with statements like that. I found myself saying yes, yes, yes, NO! DEAR GOD NO! often throughout the book. Reading about the BoBos, according to Mr. Brooks, was like reading about an evil version of me with a lot more money and a lot less honesty.As an addition to the panoply of books about the US's social structure, it was alright, though neither as amusing as Class, nor as useful as, well, not being oblivious to reality.
Review by jpsnow
David Brooks offers a convincing argument that the modern times are led (in thought and consumption) by the bourgeois bohemians, the result of the aristocrats and the hippies melding during the past 30 years. Their ultimate goal is self-actualization. "To calculate a person's status, you take his net worth and multiply it by his anti-materialistic attitudes." (p.50) The justification of the bourgeois is that economic growth has made for abundance, health, etc. Now, it's ok to spend large sums on tools or experiences, but not vain decor. Regarding bohemians, "Fifties intellectuals discussed No Exit. Contemporary intellectuals discuss no-load mutual funds." (p.149) In the section called "The Economy of Symbolic Exchange," he discusses cultural capital, academic capital (the right degree), political capital (affiliations), etc, all as equally useful for trade. He discusses the plight of aspiring intellectuals (professors, writers, columnists, and consultants), pointing out the difficult path and the importance of a useful, well-timed market niche (pick something a lot of shows and conferences will want you for, be either radical or moderate - advantages to each, there are still two classes of Bobo - the wealthy and the written; successful at either, bobos then go for the other).
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