It seems like only yesterday that I wrote:
Christopher Lasch reminds us forcefully of how social-democratic network structures have been so badly damaged in America: through the cult of ‘upward mobility’, and, specifically, through the transformation of higher education into a system of social accreditation. It is no longer even accurate to describe it as ‘elite’ social accreditation, for its purpose — a purpose which it cannot stop or pause, because the contemporary economy depends upon it for its survival — is to indefinitely and cumulatively expand the social ‘upper class’. Its objective is — to put it in Ross and Reihan’s terms — to massify the upper class by extending elite social networks ever-outward in an open web pattern with many nodes of moderate-at-best authority. (Thus Harvard’s trendsetting decision to put its coursework online, for instance.) The appeal of joining this ever-larger ‘upper’ class, of joining not the Country Club or Sam’s Club but the (pop) Culture Club, is what drives young liberals into entrepreneurial roles cast within network structures that penetrate, unravel, and destroy the hub-and-spokes structures of socially-democratic conservatives. This is the topography of Brooks’ “little culture war.”
By the pricking of my
thumbs Spidey-sense, I popped over to Ezra’s blog today and read this post, apropos of the awesomely inane inanely awesome Stuff White People Like (and titled to meta perfection):
Interestingly, I think that’s what white people — or what white yuppies — like about the site, too. Yes, it’s mocking them. But it’s also naming them, and offering a dead-on description of their experience. Which means the experience, if not universal, is common. And so reading the site gives a lot of folks a warm sense of belonging. They’re part of something. That something may be absurd and privileged and heavy with self-congratulatory irony, but it’s real, and by giving it shape and boundaries, Stuff White People Like helps readers fit themselves definitively inside the experience. If you’re into Asian fusion, the Wire, kitchen gadgets, and Barack Obama, you’re part of the club. And everyone likes being part of the club.
Or feeling a sense of being part of a club — a club to which, as Samsung puts it, “Everyone’s Invited” (and how!), even if that ‘club’ happens actually to be a structurally self-reproducing expanding blob of trivial celebration at psychologically and possibly economically unsustainable cost. These are the voting members of the Third Great Club, arrayed against Country Clubbers and Sam’s Clubbers. The socioeconomic objective of the American system today is to continue to recruit Culture Clubbers from the Country Club and from Sam’s Club until no one is left to co-opt. Resistance to this gooey, anesthetizing spider’s web is something that can unite paleocons, libertarians, mainstream ‘values voters’, and even — as Ross and Reihan, I think, imply — neoconservatives who are not locked in a self-imposed hypnotic trance. Oh yes — and working-class Democrats. Call it the Coalition of Citizens Who Never Watched Sideways for a Better America.