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June 15, 2004

Civil War Among the Educated Class?

Fascinating NYT column by David Brooks. He postulates that the educated elite in this country can be divided into two subclasses: Knowledge workers, and managers. These two classes, he says, "happen to be engaged in a bitter conflict about everything from S.U.V.'s to presidents."

Knowledge-class types are more likely to value leaders who possess what may be called university skills: the ability to read and digest large amounts of information and discuss their way through to a nuanced solution. Democratic administrations tend to value self-expression over self-discipline. Democratic candidates — from Clinton to Kerry — often run late.

Managers are more likely to value leaders whom they see as simple, straight-talking men and women of faith. They prize leaders who are good at managing people, not just ideas. They are more likely to distrust those who seem overly intellectual or narcissistically self-reflective.

Republican administrations tend to be tightly organized and calm, in a corporate sort of way, and place a higher value on loyalty and formality. . . .

Brooks readily agrees that his hypothesis doesn't explain the variety of subcultures within the Democratic and Republican parties:

This contest between rival elites certainly doesn't explain everything about our politics. But with their overwhelming cultural and financial power, these elite groups do frame the choices the rest of the country must face. If not for the civil war within the educated class, this country would be far less polarized.

It's a thought-provoking idea none the less.

June 15, 2004 in Politics | Permalink


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