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Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There (Hors Catalogue) (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – Mai 2000

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You've seen them: They sip double-tall, nonfat lattes, chat on cell phones, and listen to NPR while driving their immaculate SUVs to Pottery Barn to shop for $48 titanium spatulas. They tread down specialty cheese aisles in top-of-the-line hiking boots and think nothing of laying down $5 for an olive-wheatgrass muffin. They're the bourgeois bohemians--"Bobos"--an unlikely blend of mainstream culture and 1960s-era counterculture that, according to David Brooks, represents both America's present and future: "These Bobos define our age. They are the new establishment. Their hybrid culture is the atmosphere we all breathe. Their status codes now govern social life." Amusing stereotypes aside, they're an "elite based on brainpower" and merit rather than pedigree or lineage: "Dumb good-looking people with great parents have been displaced by smart, ambitious, educated, and antiestablishment people with scuffed shoes."

Bobos in Paradise is a brilliant, breezy, and often hilarious study of the "cultural consequences of the information age." Large and influential (especially in terms of their buying power), the Bobos have reformed society through culture rather than politics, and Brooks clearly outlines this passing of the high-class torch by analyzing nearly all aspects of life: consumption habits, business and lifestyle choices, entertainment, spirituality, politics, and education. Employing a method he calls "comic sociology," Brooks relies on keen observations, wit, and intelligence rather than statistics and hard theory to make his points. And by copping to his own Bobo status, he comes across as revealing rather than spiteful in his dead-on humor. Take his description of a typical grocery store catering to discriminating Bobos: "The visitor to Fresh Fields is confronted with a big sign that says 'Organic Items today: 130.' This is like a barometer of virtue. If you came in on a day when only 60 items were organic, you'd feel cheated. But when the number hits the three figures, you can walk through the aisles with moral confidence."

Like any self-respecting Bobo, Brooks wears his erudition lightly and comfortably (not unlike, say, an expedition-weight triple-layer Gore-Tex jacket suitable for a Mount Everest assault but more often seen in the gym). But just because he's funny doesn't mean this is not a serious book. On the contrary, it is one of the more insightful works of social commentary in recent memory. His ideas are sharp, his writing crisp, and he even offers pointed suggestions for putting the considerable Bobo political clout to work. And, unlike the classes that spawned them--the hippies and the yuppies--Brooks insists the Bobos are here to stay: "Today the culture war is over, at least in the realm of the affluent. The centuries-old conflict has been reconciled." All the more reason to pay attention. --Shawn Carkonen


P. J. O'Rourke The new Dodge minivan is named the Kerouac. Maynard G. Krebs brokered the AOL/Time Warner deal. They're selling Amway products from Ken Kesey's Magic Bus. Yow. This is much worse than the sixties. "Bobos in Paradise" is cool, mean, and excellent.

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Von Ein Kunde am 28. Juli 2000
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
David Brooks' funny and passionate examination of the rise of Bourgeois Bohemians takes us through the last 50 years and makes sense of modern society. By looking at Bobo education, consumerism, business, intellect, pleasure, religion, and politics, Brooks shows that America has moved from the extremes toward the center. His description of community life in the Bobo townships and the paths and pressures of success are a perfect counterpoint to Globalization and the McWorld. I found the book refreshing, smart and funny, and insightful. I don't know how I will be able to walk through Berkeley and not chuckle under my breath as I pass the confused faces of Bobos trying to decide between Peet's and Starbucks'.
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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.
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this would be a much better book if it were not for the fact that a bobo is writing it. you should expect a marvelous thesis which is certainly coherent and compelling, but if you expect a serious tone throughout, you are headed for disappointment.
i didn't expect to be laughing page after page as brooks discovers a new set of slams against yuppies. in fact, if you replace 'bobos' with 'yuppies', you'd get the kind of 'so what' feeling ahead of time that this book often merits. there were certain passages, especially in the description of the career path of a fictitious intellectual, that i thought that i was reading a less acerbic p.j. o'rourke. that is certainly entertaining enough, but what is never really addressed in this work are the consequences for an america whose elites are all great compromisers.
as a description of this group, the book excels, but the context in world-historical form is what i was looking for. instead of providing insight to what counterbalances the excess of bobo equivocation 'bobos in paradise' becomes something of a high falutin' mockumentary, complete with references to bagehot, toqueville et al.
very much like bobo ethics, this book impresses you with its self-importance and gently nudges you around by being intellectually convincing. yet for all its perception, it lacks even the spirit of a dennis miller rant.
i am in agreement with the theory that the 60s and 80s have been moderated into that clintonesque goo of the bobocracy. and i agree that now is the right time for that moderation to prevail, but i have no way to be certain that such values will matter to gen-x as they eventually replace the suv crowd. and so 'bobos in paradise' remains but a clever snapshot in time.
i was hoping for a bit more.
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This work by Brooks's is hot because it is timely and depicts a self conscious group which enjoys being characterized, provided that it is being laughed with and not at. However, while Brooks describes significant, and conspicious, cohorts of the meritocracy his definitions are somewhat off the mark.
It is inappropriate to depict this element as bourgeois bohemians; Brooks describes a decidedly bourgeois group of people. What seems to elude him (or perhaps is a part of his denial as a group member) is that anything bohemian in this life style is clearly an affection. This group of the affluent, highly educated assumes bohemian affections to demonstrate their extensive education and experience -- things attributable to affluence and bourgeois application. Their interest in developing cultures reflected in dress, diet, and material acquisitions is not indicative of some adoption of bohemian interests and mores; it is a means of indicating the breath of their cultural knowledge, and is often a pretext for demonstrating how well traveled they are. This is proven by the group's separation from anything untidy, unpredictable, or unpleasant inherent in peasant or working class culture. Occasionally they "slum" because it is chic. This isn't new, for example, many WASPs were devotees of the Harlem Renaissance.
Brooks also asserts, incorrectly, that the WASP upper crust has been displaced by a new, affluent, highly educated, multicultural meritocracy. This is hardly the case; the WASP upper crust has proved adaptable and is quite secure. It only surrendered that for which it has deemed not worth fighting. Brooks assumes that because WASPs are no longer the conspicuously dominant group in many managerial roles that they are in decline.
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