Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There

June 30th, 2010 at 9:39 am

“Titans of the information age walk around comparing the size of their predictions.”

Bobos in Paradise by David Brooks

The titular phrase Bobo has not caught on in the cultural lexicon as has hippie, yuppie, hipster, tween, millennial, etc, etc, et al.

It’s too bad, but understandable. Bobo is an abbreviated conflation of Bourgeois Bohemian and has the linguistic resonance of an Icelandic volcano. Though written way back in 2000 by David Brooks, Bobos in Paradise identifies a crucial element of our modern culture that is so pervasive it seems odd not to refer to it chidingly as often as we do hippies, yuppies, hipsters, etc. If anything, this book is more relevant and timely now than when it was written 10 years ago since the Bobo element has certainly reached its hegemonic stride.

Bobos are the educated, ruling class. They are a polymorphous, ill-definable demographic, but to get an initial grasp of this ilk, imagine an entity somewhere between Steve Jobs and your friend who wears a water-proof, reversible North Face fleece vest but never hikes, camps, bivouacs, or even spends much time outdoors, therefore successfully executing Rule #2 of the Bobo Code of Financial Correctness: “It is perfectly acceptable to spend lots of money on anything that is of ‘professional quality,’ even if it has nothing to do with your profession.”

Bobos are an element of our contemporary population that we can all probably identify in a vague way, but David Brooks has observed, reported, investigated, inquired, examined, and lionized the Bobo caste. Prior to reading this, the Bobos were merely an anomaly, mere coincidences and unaccountable convergences. It took this book to properly frame and explain a key segment of modern population that was until this reading, unnamed.

So who the hell are Bobos?
Read the book, you lazy slob.

Bobos are those who embody both the social liberalism of bohemians and the economic/political conservatism of the bourgeois. But unfortunately “Gone are the sixties-era things that were fun and of interest to teenagers, like Free Love, and retained are all the things that might be of interest to middle-aged hypochondriacs, like whole grains.”

Bobos are wholesomely ambitious. They are temperate and responsible. They are bureaucratic and utilitarian. They value organization, edification, purpose and connoisseurship. They are educated. They are affluent. They are Charlie Rose and David Geffen and Ken Burns and Al Gore and George W. Bush. They are NPR, Starbucks, Anthropologie, REI, Gap, Restoration Hardware, Weekly Standard, New Yorker, and Barnes & Noble.

Bobos know that “the best kind of money is incidental money. It’s the kind of money you just happen to earn while you are pursuing your creative vision.” And to be a Bobo, “not only do you have to show some income results; you have to perform a series of feints to show how little your worldly success means to you.”

Despite this demographics’ significance and impact on our lives, why after 10 years has “Bobo” not caught on?

Perhaps the name is simply too clunky.
Perhaps they are too big and too diverse of a group. We tend to obsess over outliers and homogenous groups who can be easily defined and therefore easily persecuted and/or praised.

Perhaps they are too moderate. In a way that the hippies and evangelicals and other radical groups can be lambasted and accused of committing deviant and unwelcome behavior, the Bobos are a pretty boring group. They can’t really be accused of being good or bad.

They just are. Dangerously innocuous in a way.

I propose that we revive the term Bobo as a slur. Or come up with a better one to slander this vile group. It has been during the Bobo rule that, “The rewards for intellectual capital have increased while the rewards for physical capital have not.” Except for athletes I suppose?

And it was the old order that asked, “Who are you?” But now the new (Bobo) order asks, “What do you do?”

They used to want our labor. But the Bobos want our soul.


June 10th, 2010 at 10:31 pm

HST and audiovisual.

Who would have thought?

Thanks better blog: boingboing.

Reality Hunger: A Manifesto by David Shields

June 8th, 2010 at 9:24 am

Reality Hunger: A Manifesto by David Shields

Quick. Everyone run out and read this book. Right now.

But good luck. Because I was at a Books, Inc. recently (“The West’s Oldest Independent Bookstore”) and they did not have it.

Which is bullshit.

The one on Haight Street no less. (Books, Inc.: may your souls be forever tormented by the violent retribution of the peyote-clenching two-thumbed fist).

Why are bookstores going out of business?
Because they suck. They are not selling anything anyone wants to buy.

I don’t care how good your customer service is if you’re not selling anything I want.

“The external focus of Books Inc. is now and always has been customer service. The internal objective is to train the next generation of booksellers.”

You might as well train the next generation of elevator operators.

So here I am, I’ve already read the damned book, for free, from the public library, and actually liked it so much that I wanted to buy it, but couldn’t!
Can you believe that? I wanted to part with my hard, hard, hard-earned money for a bunch of ink and paper. A compendium of mere thoughts. Made up shit. Cash in exchange for thoughts from a stranger? Ridiculous, right?
But I couldn’t.
Yet the building of socialism had it. For free. Weeks earlier.
No amount of customer service is going to change or fix that.
FUCK customer service. I loath the phrase.

But seriously, go read Reality Hunger. I don’t think I have ever, ever finished a book and immediately turned back to the first page to begin reading again.
Until this book.

But you may not be as concerned with its contents as much as I so I will prepare you.

It is a manifesto.
Cool word, right?
I know. I think so too.
You want to say it slow.
Make it seem mysterious and intimidating.

Reality Hunger: A Manifesto is a work concerned with the modern relevance of books, stories, and the written word. It is a stirring call to arms, a refreshing and inspiring evaluation of contemporary storytelling and myth and the status of novels. It is about books. It is about art. It is about rap. It is about collage and graffiti and lying and stealing and history and reality television and making shit up and the value that all of it has on our culture.

Here’s the rub:

“An artistic movement, albeit an organic and as-yet-unstated one, is forming. What are its key components? A deliberate unartiness: “raw” material, seemingly unprocessed, unfiltered, uncensored, and unprofessional. Randomness, openness to accident and serendipity, spontaneity: artistic risk, emotional urgency and intensity, reader/viewer participation; an overly literal tone, as if a reporter were viewing a strange culture; plasticity of form, pointillism; criticism as autobiography; self-reflexivity, self-ethnography, anthropological autobiography; a blurring (to the point of invisibility) of any distinction between fiction and nonfiction: the lure and blur of the real.”

For me, Reality Hunger read like the best of dreams. In an intellectual way. Not a sexual way.
But then again, I’ve always found intellectualism quite sexy.

Have you seen my head mast? I’m quite sophisticated.

But all joking aside, go read David Shields’ previous book, The Thing About Life is That One Day You’ll Be Dead.

Cause you will. I’ve seen it happen.

And to recoup, aren’t public libraries rad?

Can you keep it simple?
Can you let the snare crack?