Stephen Karlson (shkarlson) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Stephen Karlson


For a long time, I have suggested that the aesthetic sensibilities of learned people bring contempt for their otherwise inclined neighbors or former neighbors in train.  That's a suggestion.  If you'd like that argument codified, clarified, and extensively supported, pick up Fred Siegel's The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism has Undermined the Middle Class.

I'll keep Book Review No. 30 brief.  Mr Siegel is writing about the pernicious effect of the aesthetic sensibilities of learned people, or at least people who have persuaded themselves that their credentials, or their tone, or their hosts or guests at the right kind of parties qualify themselves as learned, or somehow better equipped to lead.  (We understand that they are not: and I have devoted fifteen years to counting the ways in which they are not.)  The usual suspects are there: Herbert Croly, Sinclair Lewis, H. L. Mencken, Walter Lippmann, Susan Sontag.  His purpose is straightforward.  "Liberals believe that they deserve more power because they act on behalf of people's best interests -- even if the darn fools don't know it."  (Paperback edition, xvi.)

But the story is less about policy or winning elections than it is about the evolution of the cluster of ideas most easily summarized under the rubric of "fatal conceit."  It's also the growing frustration of the remnant of the middle class at their treatment by their self-appointed betters, and the growing frustration of those supposed betters at losing arguments, as well as elections.

The index notes no mentions of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.  They're not necessary.  The frustrations documented by Mr Siegel were in place long before those Wisconsin and Michigan electoral votes went on the board.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
Tags: contemporary, current events, politics, scholarly

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