Thursday, January 27, 2011

Revolt of the Elites?

Today I read an essay from the editors of n+1 called “Revolt of the Elites” What I found interesting – aside from its compelling and balanced analysis of the anti-intellectual climate in America today – was its mention of the practice of articulate language and analysis as a marker for those who are most often dismissed by the political right as being out of touch with the “real world.”

You know the story: liberal universities under the control of elitist, intellectual professors are not only indoctrinating our young people into a culture of politically correct ideology, they are also corrupting government policy, the constitution, and nearly every other traditional American institution in their quest for a one world socialist government. Or something to that effect.

As if a life of intense study, competitive discourse, intellectual discipline, and the ability to express insightful, hard-earned perspectives on relevant issues specific to a field of academic study somehow disqualifies a person when it comes to debating serious political issues. Or, from a different angle, as if people of immense wealth, power, or economic influence were more in tune with the daily lives of ordinary people.

In other words, the boogey man is not the guy who outsourced your place of employment, started a war, or received a multi-million dollar bonus after collapsing the economy. Instead, s/he has a PhD in the social sciences and s/he’s out to get you.

But, all sarcasm aside, here’s a few excerpts and a link to the article:
“Has any concept more completely defined and disfigured public life over the last generation than so-called elitism? Ever since Richard Nixon’s speechwriters pitted a silent majority (later sometimes “the real America”) against the nattering nabobs of negativism (later “tenured radicals,” the “cultural elite,” and so on), American political, aesthetic, and intellectual experience can only be glimpsed through a thickening fog of culture war. And the fog, very often, has swirled around a single disreputable term.
“The first thing to note is the migration of the word elite and its cognates away from politics proper and into culture …”
“… Certain varieties of culture — and politics — are much more likely to get branded elitist than others. It’s striking, for instance, how few complaints one hears about the elitism of movie, TV, or pop music production, when these usually require millions of dollars to get off the ground. Equally few protests are uttered about the barriers to entry in running political advertisements. In fact it seems to be especially with reference to basically verbal spheres — spoken or written words addressed to a general audience, and politics as a matter of public debate rather than practical state coercion — that elitism most often comes up …”
 [Click here to read the whole article]

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