Bobos in Paradise by David Brooks
Brooks heaps scorn on the bohemian bourgeoisie ("bobos"), and then tries to salvage them by claiming they are actually hackers.
We Bobo types prize metis more than abstract reasoning, and we are right to do so. We are right to be involved in the world, to climb and strive and experience the dumb superficialities of everyday life, just like everybody else.
However, his lengthy disquisition on NY Times Weddings and Engagements biopics his bobos, and they are mostly playing not great strategic games, ie. games where there are few winners and lots of people playing catch-up.
Take the show-down scene from Good Will Hunting; which embodies metis more, the $150K or the buck fifty? Almost all of the biopics are of people who went the 150K route.
Though they admire art and intellect, they find themselves living amidst commerce, or at least in that weird hybrid zone where creativity and commerce intersect. This class is responsible for more yards of built-in bookshelf space than any group in history.
Bobos have inflated more than bookshelves. They over-pay for their coffee on their way to work in the "red" industries like education, healthcare, and government where cost to benefit has been declining.
Those, however, are the wanna-be bobos. They aren't the best-sellers, or the wealthy itinerant professors; they are just some of the vast majority of the middle and lower upper classes who are freaking out about healthcare and their kids educations.
Maybe it's only top few who actually possess some metis, who beat up on the others in order to maintain their status.
You can certainly do it, but there are better games to play out there.
Today a vice president at Microsoft might build a huge modern mansion, but if he built a house like J. P. Morgans hed be regarded as a pompous crank.
A novelist who makes $1 million a year is far more prestigious than a banker who makes $50 million. A software designer who has stock options in the millions is more prestigious than a real estate developer with holdings in the tens of millions. A newspaper columnist who makes $150,000 a year will get his calls returned more quickly than a lawyer who makes six times that. A restaurant owner with one successful nightspot will be on the receiving end of more cocktail party fawning than a shopping center owner with six huge malls.
Most important, Jacobs reconciles the bourgeois love of order with the bohemian love of emancipation. A city street, she argues, looks chaotic, but it really is quite orderly. Under the seeming disorder of the old city, she writes, wherever the old city is working successfully, is a marvelous order for maintaining the safety of the streets and the freedom of the city. It is a complex order. Its essence is intricacy of sidewalk use, bringing with it a constant succession of eyes. This order is all composed of movement and change, and although it is life, not art, we may fancifully call it the art form of the city and liken it to the dance. This passage encapsulates the key reconciliations, freedom and safety, order and change, life and art. The good life, she implies, is composed of flux, diversity, and complexity, but underneath it all is an inner harmony.
This sort of knowledge consists in perpetual improvisation, a sort of wise muddling through. Rejecting universal solutions, the person who prizes metis welcomes a diversity of approaches, to use that word which was so important to Jane Jacobs and all subsequent Bobos.
Harvard academic Daniel Yergin wrote some books on the history of oil, then seized the opportunity to open a consultants shop for energy
Columbia professor Edward Said, who is unhappy with the trend, describes the change in Representations of the Intellectual: The particular threat to the intellectual today is not the academy, nor the suburbs, nor the appalling commercialism of journalism and publishing houses, but rather an attitude that I will call professionalism. By professionalism I mean thinking of your work as an intellectual as something you do for a living, between the hours of nine and five with one eye on the clock, and another cocked at what is considered to be proper, professional behaviornot rocking the boat, not straying outside accepted paradigms or limits, making yourself marketable and above all presentable.
Once the editor gives a provisional go-ahead for the piece, the young intellectual will have up to four hours to write it, which doesnt exactly leave a lot of time for Edmund Wilsonlike throat clearing. Nonetheless, she must conceive the piece along the lines of Chartres Cathedral. The prose style should be permanent and solid but appear light. The first two paragraphs should be like a facade dazzling and all-encompassing. The next several paragraphs should be like a walk down the apse, always heading in a straight line toward the predictable climax but also offering glancing views of interesting side chapels. Finally, the ultimate paragraph should be like arriving at the transept, with light flooding in from all sides. Also, as journalist Michael Kinsley advises, it is best not to use semicolons, as they can be thought pretentious.
A wise soul once declared that the ultimate power of the writer is that he has the choice of whom he wants to be co-opted by.
Magazine writers sometimes argue that theres no sense writing a book because a magazine article can reach millions more people and costs a fraction of the effort. But book writing aside from whatever pleasures can be derived from actually knowing something about your subject rather than just boning up on it for a few days turns the author into panel fodder.
I WROTE SEVERAL magazine articles about upscale culture before I realized they pointed to a single thesis that could be the basis for a book.