Tuesday, July 11, 2017

David Brooks and American Class Strata

David Brooks has an op-ed in the Times today outlining many ways in which he sees the richest among us making sure that others don't move up and join them. The basic idea is that once you have some money, you invest and invest and invest in your children.  It's an arms race among parents, and the richest have the most arms (pre-K education, elite college admissions, restrictive zoning, etc. etc.).  To me it all seems fairly obvious.

Brooks is catching flak on twitter and elsewhere, however, for one paragraph:
"Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican."
 What Brooks is getting at, which is lost in the twitter comments, is there's lots of less visible barriers to advancement, particularly for those of us who are a little less socially adept in adapting to our surroundings, and picking up on social cues. 

Where I disagree with Brooks is his history.  America has always had a class structure.  See Edith Wharton's fiction for one.  The ways in which the structure is maintained may have changed over the years; that's something Brooks should have acknowledged.

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