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Sunday, May 15, 2016

The New Class

Neil Gross writes at The New York Times:
IN 1979, in a short book called “The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class,” the sociologist Alvin Gouldner took up a question then being vigorously debated by social analysts: Did the student movements of the 1960s signal that the highly educated were on their way to becoming a major political force in American society?
Last month, the Pew Research Center released a study showing that nearly a third of those who went to graduate or professional school have “down the line” liberal views on social, economic and environmental matters, whereas this is true for just one in 10 Americans generally. An additional quarter of postgrads have mostly liberal views. These numbers reflect drastic change: While professionals have been in the Democratic column for a while, in 1994 only 7 percent of postgrads held consistently liberal political opinions.
This phenomenon is mostly a boon for the Democratic Party. While only 10 percent of American adults hold advanced degrees, that number is expected to rise. The group is active politically and influential.

But Dr. Gouldner’s new-class theory should alert Democrats to a lurking danger. It is probably right that something like a culture of critical discourse can be found in the workplaces and households and in the publications read by Americans who have attended graduate or professional school. The challenge for the Democrats moving forward will be to develop appeals to voters that resonate not just with this important constituency, but also with other crucial groups in the Democratic coalition. Some of the draw of Donald Trump for white working-class male voters, for example, is that he does not speak in a culture of critical discourse. Indeed, he mocks that culture, tapping into class resentments.