"Bobo" is author David Brooks' acronym for a Bourgeois Bohemian, a synthesis of Reaganism and Woodstock, the folks he says are running the country today. Bobos are new money--the meritocracy of smart folk who have become rich as fast-track professionals, clever enterpreneurs, start-up capitalists, or visionaries like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. Some Bobos are capitalistic hippies and some are mellowed-out business people; Bobo is their common meeting ground. True to their mixed heritage, Bobos love oxymoronic concepts like "sustainable development," "cooperative individualism" or "liberation management." Reconciliation is their middle name.
Bobos dislike showing off, but of course all rich people do, so they are allowed to show off in discreet ways. Mercedes are out, but SUV's are in. Jewelry is out, but eco-tourism is in. Bobox buy the same things the rest of us do (bread, chicken, coffee) but pay from 3 to 10 times the mass-market price in search of something better, organic, or more planet-friendly. In fact, anything that shows one to be a friend to the planet is fair game, no matter how silly. There's even a toothpaste that encourages germs to leave the mouth.
Needless to say, it takes a huge income to be a true Bobo. Brooks almost had this reviewer feeling sorry for the poor U. of Chicago professor forced to live on a "mere" household income of $180K, barely enough to cover private schools for her kids and a nanny. The wretch suffers from what Brooks calls "status-income disequilibrium" or "SID" because her pay, while handsome, pales before her similarly educated peers in the professions and business, with whom she has to socialize at symposia.
America teems with the newly rich. Bobos are most easily spotted in "Latte Towns" like Madison, Wisconsin or Northampton, Massachusetts. Ideally, such venues have "a Swedish-style government, German-style pedestrian malls, Victorian houses, Native American crafts, Italian coffee, Berkeley human rights groups, and Beverly Hills income levels." That's where you'll see the businessman wearing hiking boots patiently explaining 401(k) plans to the aging hippie who's making a killing selling bicyles, or software, or sandwiches.
Brooks is at his best describing the furbelows and follies of Bobo-dom. But Bobos in Paradise is really two books in one. Massive amounts of this text could have been computer cut-and-pasted from a work called something like American Intellectual History: 1955-2000. Sometimes Brooks maintains a light tone (without being truly funny), sometimes he is merely factual. I really didn't need to hear three times how tendentious the old Partisan Review gang was back in the fifties. I didn't really need to hear how a Bobo should act on a political chat show (smile a lot and be positive). I didn't really need to hear how TV has coopted intellectual life (that process began in the fifties with J. Fred Muggs and Steve-a-reeno, before most Bobos were born, and it was dealt with much better in the book Nobrow, anyway).
Don't get me wrong, the funny parts of this book are quite funny, and for that reason alone I'm giving it four stars. If it had been consistently funny and satiric I would have given it five. I came real close to giving it a three because the slow stretches, while not inaccurate, did little to further the author's thesis. If you intend to write pop sociology, better to write first-rate pop sociology than second-rate academic sociology.
One point to ponder is whether the term "Bobo" will catch on. In 1945 no one had heard of a "Highbrow" and in 1980 no one knew what a "Yuppie" was. And there were plenty of columnists who said that we didn't need such words, yet they became coin of the realm anyway. If it strikes you that your local rich people are starting to act like a fusion of Richard Gere and Bill Gates, or Al Gore and Jerry Garcia, then maybe the Bobo moniker might just cover them all. Hopeless trendoids, take note and read this book before the inevitable paperback edition.
on February 17, 2002
Nobody wants to be called a yuppie these days. As a social phenomenon, the yuppies, with their power suits and moussed hair, are now looked back upon with about as much affection as the Hitler youth. They were pushy and arrogant, yet they seemed to be everywhere.
So where did they all go? David Brooks ventures an amusing answer in Bobos in Paradise, in which he defines and describes a new social class, the 'bourgeois bohemians', or bobos. A bobo combines the solid fiscal sensibility of the village burgher with the daring lifestyle choices of the left bank. Brooks thinks bobos reconcile the great social cleavage of the 1960s between the squares and the counterculture.
Bobos in Paradise is a very funny, entertaining book, and it's highly readable. Brooks is a very clever salesman -- much more so than his brutally honest predecessor in 'comic sociology', Paul Fussell, whose 1983 book *Class* is a much more pointed analysis of the American social system. Fussell heartlessly dissects and illustrates his three major classes, i.e. upper, middle and lower, all of which he sees as roiling moshpits of status consciousness and envy. Brooks is much less brave: as a self-professed bobo, he only tweaks his upper-middle-class, book-buying, bobo audience, satirizing bobo sensibilities yet carefully avoiding any violations of serious bobo taboos. He's good at seeming to be a bad boy.
But bobos aren't upper-middle class, you protest! Doesn't Brooks himself identify them as the nation's new 'upper class'? .... Fussell, wherever he is these days, would chide Brooks for missing the ways in which bobos are in fact achingly middle class. Fussell nails down the primary distinction between uppers and middles: uppers don't care what other people think of them; middles, on the other hand, inhabit a very universe of social insecurity, made manifest in slavish devotion to correct tastes and trends.
In fact, I'd argue very little has changed in the overall American class structure since Fussell wrote Class, except that the upper-middle class have simply decided they'll ape bohemian egomaniacs instead of upper-class twits. This is not insignificant, in that the upper middles dictate much of the nation's popular culture, but it doesn't mean the bobos have supplanted the real upper class, either.
Brooks is also very, very kind to bobos in assuming they're so generally beneficent, and that they're likely to be such a stable, self-perpetuating phenomenon. When times are good, it's easy for people to spend their money trying to appear socially correct and even trendy. But these bobo characteristics don't seem very deeply rooted.
Brooks's chapter on bobos' spiritual lives exposes their deracination. Brooks makes a facile identification of a 'civil society' that exhibits 'social cohesion' with true spirituality. But bobos can't re-root themselves in the spiritual depths of a genuine faith by acquiring a few of its liturgical accoutrements. Buying a 1950s-style toaster doesn't transform your life into Ward and June Cleaver's -- it's just a toaster, in the end. In the same way, the bobos who collect congenial bits of ritual from a variety of religious traditions don't get any closer to God, even if it does make them feel vaguely better.
It's only self-denial that opens up the depths of true spiritual commitment. From Brooks' description, this crucial little nugget is completely indigestible to bobos, whose personal autonomy must override any demands from another power, no matter how high. The only rein upon this autonomy, predictably, is peer pressure -- in bobos' case, their abhorrence of appearing intolerant or 'fanatical'.
To be fair, Brooks realizes all this, and tries to show how bobos might sidestep this dilemma. He calls the bobo spiritual compromise 'choice reconciled with commitment', and suggests that 'maybe it can work'. Later, though, he admits that 'the thing we [bobos] are in danger of losing is our sense of belonging'. But belonging to what? At this point Brooks retreats, like a good bobo must, from pressing the issue deeper. It would be too dangerously fanatical to ask gauche questions about whether or not God, well, exists -- and if so, if he can make any demands on us.
As Brooks admits, '[bobos] prefer a moral style that doesn't shake things up' (p. 250). But this is again a hopelessly middle-class validation of the status quo. When conventionality and nicely-judged social respectability trump belief, then choice wins, commitment loses. Committed believers are therefore anathema to the bobo ethic. Bobos are afraid of any power that might upset their little worlds, since deep down they know those worlds float untethered on a shallow sea of trivial lifestyle choices.
Herein lies the most serious criticism of boboism, which Brooks turns tail and scampers away from: it is shallow, especially when confronting questions of life, death and eternity. Bobos too will die, no matter how many decaf lattes they drink, no matter how often they get in tune with nature's rhythms on their eco-holidays.
So is the bobo way of life here to stay, like Brooks thinks? I doubt it. Their upper-middle class sensibilities will surely long be with us, but who knows what fashions they'll adopt when their current bohemian trendiness goes stale? For now, though, they're infesting America much as the yuppies once did, and Brook's entertaining book at least gives us the chance to chuckle about it.
on June 9, 2000
Reading through the previous reviews recorded here on this book, I wasn't surprised that some readers loved it, others hated it, and some noted its superficiality while being amused.
Brooks' concept of Bobos (Bourgeois Bohemians) is fascinating and at times his observations sparkle, but he is utterly unconvincing when he argues that Bohemian values "rule" in America today. Clearly, Brooks is aware of the view that Bohemian values have been coopted by the corporate establishment and used as a marketing vehicle; but he makes little effort to explain why he rejects this view for one that exhalts the supposed power of people who are too easily stereotyped for eating granola and wearing Birkenstocks.
There is much in this book that struck me as wrongheaded--especially when Brooks obsesses on surface-level concerns rather than their deeper meanings, such as the repeated shots he takes at those Bobos who may prefer to buy a hand-woven blanket made in Guatemala rather than a synthetic one manufactured in America. As if this is a matter of great importance.
Despite its shortcomings, Brooks' insights make the book well worth a reading--his observations, for example, on Latte Towns, the new morality of Bobos (with its central focus on medical rather than religious injunctions), and the culture of Seattle can be both wickedly funny and insightful.
Brooks is the sort of conservative a liberal like me can enjoy. In reviewing the attacks of more strident right-wing commentators, Brooks provides a sensible corrective to the overwrought ravings of the Clinton haters and those conservatives, such as Robert Bork, who descend to self-parody when they reflect on the nightmare of "the Sixties."
Brooks's won't be the last word on the subject of those aging, affluent Boomers who exert such power in America today. But this book will be influential and widely read across the ideological spectrum. It's a lot smarter, funnier and more perceptive than much of what has already been written on this generation.
on December 10, 2001
This is a glib, semi-satirical look at the latest incarnation of yuppy baby boomers. Unfortunately, David Brooks is too fond of his subject for the satire to have much bite. The most disturbing thing about this book is that Brooks is insightful enough to see through the silliness, pretensions and superficiality of these people and idealizes them anyway. Bobos is actually quite a cynical book. For example, after thoroughly exposing the vacuous nature of modern "intellectuals" --dilettantes who care more about grants and social status than ideas, Brooks inexplicably maintains they are an improvement over intellectuals of previous decades. Bobos in Paradise is largely an exercise in denial. Brooks wants us (and himself no doubt) to believe that Bobos are cute, brilliant and idealistic and their flaws trivial. Furthermore, he argues that they are the new ruling class. This is more self-delusion on his part. The fact is, bobos are too content in their little cocoons of consumption to attempt to conquer the world. They are merely a faction of the upper middle class (not upper class as Brooks states) who are not well represented in the upper echelons of government or finance. When it comes down to it, bobos are merely the latest version of the self-absorbed bourgeois. The very way Brooks exaggerates their influence is a perfect example of their narcissism.
on September 12, 2000
At the risk of repeating the valid criticisms I have skimmed here, I will attempt to summarize the major flaws of this very flawed book.
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.
Bobos ("bourgeois bohemians") are what come of the Protestant Establishment bedding down with flower children. Bobos are the issue of WASP and Kennedy Catholic, the Left Bank and the Right. Ben Franklin making cozy with Gustav Flaubert. A marriage of Episcopalian and Jew. A prep school Adonis seducing a grad school feminist. (Or perhaps that should be the other way around.) They are what happens to yuppies in the Age of Information. Bobos realize that the bottom line should be done in calligraphy; that six-figures of yearly income ought to buy more than the Wall Street Journal and cappuccino; that there is more to life than vintage port and the society pages.
Although Bobos in Paradise is packaged as a satire, and indeed a lot of fun is had with the meritocracy, it is actually an adoration written by a self-admitted member of the new elite. Since it is difficult to satirize your own class, Brooks's satire occasionally lacks bite. But it certainly doesn't lack pizzazz, sparkle, and a kind of "Look, Ma, I'm writing!" effervescence. Bon mots and witty catch phrases ("incidental money," "biscotti-nibbling Bobos," "New Age vaporheads," etc.) roll right off his tongue, or, I should say, spring adroitly from his keyboard. Thus on page 58 we learn that "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."
Sometimes we get a glimpse, however, that, although his eye is sharp and his wit keen, Brooks's verbal hijinks lack a certain substance, leading to a failure to convince. Thus on page 90 he writes: "The top-of-the-line fleece outergarments [worn by Bobos] are used for nothing more strenuous than traversing the refrigerated aisle in the Safeway." One thing wrong with this: Bobos don't shop at Safeway. Please. More like Whole Foods or Bristol Farms.
Or, on page 20, where he's talking about wedding section photos from the New York Times in the fifties, he observes, "and yet it's not really been so long-most of the people on those yellowing pages are still alive, and a sizable portion of the brides on those pages are young enough that they haven't yet been dumped for trophy spouses." Which means, I guess, that Brooks thinks that a man opts for a trophy wife at about the age of 70. Or maybe, caught up in the pleasing flow of his rhetoric, he doesn't notice when the meaning has gone slightly awry.
The book is organized into chapters defining the lifestyle of Bobos. One of the best is "Consumption," that which Bobos do best: conspicuously consume with a vengeance while remaining politically correct. The chapters are padded out a little with reviews of influential books of social criticism, e.g., William Whyte's The Organization Man, Theodore Roszak's The Making of a Counter-Culture or Paul Goodman's Growing Up Absurd, a group the author and his book clearly aspire to join.
Also excellent is the chapter, "Intellectual Life," in which Brooks focuses on think tank culture and demolishes it. For Brooks, a think tank is where underlings learn how to become intellectuals while going through a "buttboy stage" as they scurry with their stuffed briefcases behind the "front people" of the tanks, tired old icon intellectuals who "walk very fast to demonstrate their vitality" (p. 155). Brooks notes tellingly that if anything happened to the apprentice intellectuals "think tank reports across America would go out filled with typos for months."
A chapter on "Pleasure" suffers from Brooks's disinclination to reveal much about the sexual habits of Bobos. Other than to assert that Bobos like their sex healthy, safe and with rules, and that they don't just have orgasms, they "achieve them," Brooks is fairly mum. Whether Bobos do threesomes or prefer third world types for sexual thrills is apparently not known. Work itself is the real pleasure.
The chapter "Politics and Beyond" demonstrates that Bobos are a reconciliation of liberal and conservative, a mesh of the politics of the 60s and 80s. They would seem to be moderates, but by page 266 Brooks assures us happily that Bobos have clearly "become conservatives."
The chapter on "Spiritual Life" suffers from a kind of free-floating free-good association that Brooks wants to indulge. Bobos don't put down any religion, and in fact like to try them all on for size, picking and choosing from each what is best. One gets the sense however that Bobo heaven is a place where spirituality is expressed by buying, displaying and using politically correct consumer goods and services.
Make no mistake, though, this is the kind of book biz coup that we'd all like to have written. It's tasty pablum for those who would see themselves as the ruling class, a massage of prejudices, mores and self-centered delusions that would have amused Dwight MacDonald (author of "Masscult and Midcult," a seminal satiric essay from the fifties) or old H. L. Mencken who liked to shock the "booboisie" with his polemics, as does Brooks. In fact Brooks's Bobos look a little like Mencken's boobus americanus after a TV makeover.
Yet there's something reassuring in this fantasy of upper class life in America at the dawn of a new millennium. Sure the power structure has been diluted by women and some unavoidable eggheadism, but by gosh, when all is said and done, it's still the same good old boys who are running the show, upright people from such places as Wayne, Pennsylvania and Burlington, Vermont, people characterized, as their fathers were, by "restraint and sobriety."
God's in his heaven and all is right in Bobo Land.
on September 30, 2000
This book looks at the affects of universal education and the universe it has brought, from a pop culture point of view. I love the opening chapter where Brooks does an analysis of New York Times wedding pages over the decades. His description of the Bourgeois over time is funny with just a touch of affection. His writing picks up the essence of Bohemians so the reader gets the sense of their personal meanness. One wishes this part of the book could go on, but it is just a pier to launch his main idea - the creation of Bobos, the Bourgeois Bohemian. This is the person who defies labels of conservative or liberal, instead life-smithing a unique, undefinable reconciliation of the two lifestyles. Intended to celebrate the individual, Bobodom is sometimes irritatingly conforming. We have the democratization of higher education (colleges and universities at the undergrad and grad level, as well as professional schools, i.e. doctors and lawyers) to thank for this.
Brooks has to convince us Bobos exist and he accomplishes the task. From there he goes on to describe Bobo behavior and codes of conduct in various realms of life - consumption (noteworthy to mention this is the first evaluative chapter of the book), work, play, sex and the spirit. He hilariously finds the herd mentality in all this individuality. I thought his analysis of Bobo consumption was alittle too bitter and condemning. He also dwells on it too much. I expected more from the chapter on work, but he hits that nail by identifying the transformation of a job from a means to survive to a means of self expression. Brooks has a wholly white, male point of view, however. Some of his application misses the mark entirely because of his perspective. Americans of color do NOT fit the context Brooks creates for Bobo behavior. Believe me, they are definitely still Bobos. Finally, I thought the book was on track when I least expected it - in the chapter on spirituality. The biggest missing chapter in the book was on family. There are some thoughts tucked into various parts of other chapters. But, Bobos are raising kids and it occupies a sizable chuck of their lives. That is why we have SUV's, baby joggers and parent fights at Little League sporting events. What are these Gen-Y's like? because Bobo attitudes towards parenting and family life are not the same as the World War II Generation. I guess that's the topic of the next book.
on April 16, 2001
Although cultural studies have abounded within academia since the 1970s, many sociologists and others have been concerned that the focus of culture, particularly the kind of atheoretical popular cultural analyses written by observers like David Brooks, will further our increasing myopia on the matter of social class. While I enjoyed reading Brooks' new book, and found myself smiling throughout, I was simulaneously annoyed with his casual (perhaps intentional) misrepresentation of the powerful class interests that continue to exist, and rule, in contemporary America. The Bobos are merely the latest manifestation of that class segment described at the turn of the last century by Max Weber as the propertyless intelligentsia. This highly educated segment of the upper-middle class (not the upper-class as Brooks contends) has always been concerned with status and prestige, and with ensuring that all outward signs of one's self contribute to the "right" display. The term, "bobo," is catchy but misleading since there is hardly anything bohemian about this particular class segment, but much that is simply bourgeois. Brooks' belief that this is a new phenomenon, driven by the confluence of the baby-boomers with trends toward egalitarianism and global capitalism, actually supports one his claims concerning intellectual life today: one makes oneself better known by championing a demonstrably wrong thesis as long as it's an interesting one. One quick final comment: the weakest parts of the book are those sections where Brooks confronts those areas of life where he is least adept, e.g., the Seattle outdoors scene or the challenging adventure-vacation phenomenon. In these sections, the tone of Brooks writing assumes a tone of mild contempt that strives to pass as self-mockery. In sum, this book makes for a nice, light read, something that is quite in keeping with midcult demand for clever reading without having to work through anything too serious.
on July 4, 2000
David Brooks is a born lickspittle. He clearly enjoys flirting with his target audience, teasing them just enough to get their attention, then flattering them for pages. It's not very well done--even his title, the abbreviation "Bobo," makes you wince, because the "bo" in "bourgeois" isn't pronounced like the "bo" in "bohemian." The mismatch is symptomatic: Brooks' readers are far more bourgeois than they are bohemian. They are the same world-weary Eastern crowd to which the New Yorker has pandered lo, these many decades, and Brooks feeds them the same adoring banter they've come to expect. But what vile taste they and their little evangelist reveal! How horrible these little lives of furniture-pedantry! Two careers and a high-strung child who'll acquire new affectations every year, til she winds up spending her trust fund on therapy--that's Paradise? What a wretched paradise! No wonder they need this groveller to tell them how happy they are, how wonderful, for two hundred craven pages!
on May 23, 2001
Brooks calls his book comic sociology. As sociology this is bad stuff. But as comedy, I admit that I smiled and laughed my way through most of this book.
First, the comedy: this book is full of subtle observations and discrete mockery of people we all know. Who can avoid laughing at the description of those "bobos" that install stainless steel fridges in their kitchens (what Brooks calls the "texture of culinary machismo"), drive SUVs, eat "Rain Forest Crunch" and buy their "Fair Trade" Coffee at Starbucks? You know people like this. You might even be one! For added comedy, the word "bobo" means "fool" in Spanish and Portuguese. Brooks is at his funniest when he is mocking these "bobos", making fun of their customs and habits, and showing readers how ridiculous our behavior can be sometimes.
This book becomes dull, vague, and just plain wrong as soon as Brook attempts to draw high-brow, broad sociological conclusions from all of his game and jest. At first the funny moments far out-wieghed the heavy thesis-statements about the fusion of bohemian and bourgeois values. But after a few chapters Brooks loses his sense of humor and begins pushing his misguided theses without so much as a smile. By the end, I had forgotten about the funny parts (mostly towards the beginning) and realized that Brooks actually believes that the bourgeois-bohemian tension that has endured two hundred years in western societies has actually been reconciled in a Hegelian historical synthesis, that such a synthesis is for the good of all, and that the bobos (read: the baby boomers) are responsible for this noble social innovation. One never gets a clear sense who the "bobos" really are. At one point, wealthy computer whizzes from the California engineering schools are "bobos". Later, people like actor Peter Coyote (who started his career with the Diggers in Haight Ashbury now is a very marketable talent in Hollywood) are the new "bobos". Then Stamford Connecticut wives are bobos. Then green grocers in Latte Towns are bobos. Then Harvard lawyers who like to engage in adventure travel on their vacations are bobos. Eventually, one gets the sense that "bobo", "bourgeois" and "bohemian" are just broad blanket terms which can be redifined at Brooks' convenience to make whatever point he wants to make. We could all be "bobos" based on Brooks' notions of the word. It is a sociology of convenience.
I have my own explanations for many of Brooks' claims, especially about why the upper class doesn't seem so WASPy any more. Brooks claims that opening up the floodgates to the barbarians at schools like Harvard resulted in a displacement of the WASP upper class with a more enlightened upper class of philosopher kings (and queens). Nonsense. One change which Brooks gives no weight to is the rise in two income families, especially among the college-educated classes. When both parents work, each only has to earn half as much to enjoy the same lifestyle. The result is a ballooning population of incomer earners in the over $100,000 per year bracket. These newcomers to the upper class reflect consumer patterns that are markedly different from the old WASP consumer patterns because many of these new rich are not WASPs. They bring to their new upper class lifestyle a set of values that was formed in different cultural and class contexts - mid-century jewish New York, late 20th century southern california, Polish Chicago. But such a thesis is banal. Are the faces, attitudes, and behaviors of the upper class changing? Most certainly, and it is amusing and interesting to observe such changes, joke about such changes, and even speculate on why such changes are happening. Is it because of some Hegalian historical change between the forces of bourgeoisie and bohemia? Not at all. Bohemia continues to thrive, marginalized by the bourgeoisie (as always). And the new bourgeoisie continues to be as ostentatious, condescending, elitist, and conservative as ever, driving their Land Rovers, living in 3,000 square foot homes, lamenting the arrival of electricity and running water to the quaint Costa Rican village they visited once on their $......./head ecotourism adventure, and donating generously to the new, pro-business democrat party of Bill & Hilary Clinton.
All in all, this was a fun read, for the first 100 pages or so.