The intellectual class across the West—encompassing its universities, media, and arts—is striving to dismantle the values that paced its ascendancy. Europe, the source of Western civilization, now faces a campaign, in academia and elite media, to replace its cultural and religious traditions with what one author describes as a “multicultural and post-racial republic” supportive of separate identities. “The European ‘we’ does not exist,” writes French philosopher Pierre Manent, assessing the damage. “European culture is in hiding, disappearing, without a soul.”
The increasingly “woke” values of the educated upper classes reflect, as Alvin Toffler predicted almost half a century ago, the inevitable consequence of mass affluence, corporate concentration, and the shift to a service economy. The new elite, Toffler foresaw, would abandon traditional bourgeois values of hard work and family for “more aesthetic goals, self-fulfillment as well as unbridled hedonism.” Affluence, he observed, “serves as a base from which men begin to strive for post economic goals.”
The driving force for these changes has been the ascendant clerisy, which, reprising the role that the Church played in medieval times, sees itself as anointed to direct human society, a modern version of the “oligarchy of priests and monks whose task it was to propitiate heaven,” in the words of the great French historian of the Middle Ages, Marc Bloch. Traditional clerics remained part of this class but were joined by others—university professors, scientists, public intellectuals, and heads of charitable foundations. This secular portion of society has now essentially replaced the clergy, serving as what German sociologist Max Weber once called society’s “new legitimizers.” The clerisy spans an ever-growing section of the workforce that largely works outside the market economy—teachers, consultants, lawyers, government workers, and medical professionals. Meantime, positions common among the traditional middle class—small-business owners, workers in basic industries and construction—have dwindled as a share of the job market.
The educated, affluent class detests President Trump, whom many in the Third Estate support, and has rallied to its preferred candidate, Elizabeth Warren, who emerges from the legal and university communities and voices the progressive rhetoric common to this class…
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Joel Kotkin is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. He authored The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, published in 2016 by Agate. He is also author of The New Class Conflict, The City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He is executive director of NewGeography.com and lives in Orange County, CA. His next book, “The Coming Of Neo-Feudalism,” will be out this spring.