April 29, 2015
‘In the anti-sixties backlash, neoconservatives were the most formidable intellectual opponents of social progress’
In a conversation with James Baldwin, who convinced Podhoretz to write “My Negro Problem,” Podhoretz said he had grown weary of black arguments for special treatment, given that Jews never received such treatment and yet had managed to overcome past discrimination. He pointed to his childhood memories of the black children in his Brooklyn neighborhood: rather than focus on their studies as he and his Jewish friends did, they roamed the streets terrorizing Podhoretz and the other white children.
In seeking to explain an attitude that seemed to them almost inexplicable, the neoconservatives developed a persuasive theory about a “new class” of powerful people whose collective interests were inimical to traditional America. They innovated this theory by reworking an older Soviet dissident discourse founded by nineteenth-century anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, whom the anti-Stalinist Left deemed a prophet for anticipating that Marx’s “dictatorship of the proletariat” would devolve into “the most distressing, offensive, and despicable type of government in the world.”
“New class” thought gained a larger audience in the United States after the publication of Yugoslav dissenter Milovan Djilas’s 1957 book The New Class, which postulated that the communist elite gained power through the acquisition of knowledge as opposed to the acquisition of property. Used interchangeably with “the new class” was Lionel Trilling’s observation of the popularization of “adversary culture” that had migrated from bohemian enclaves into the masses.
For neoconservatives, these ideas were powerful tools for understanding the anti-American turn taken by those in academia, media, fine arts, foundations, and even some realms of government, such as the social welfare and regulatory agencies. (…)
By siding against contemporary intellectual mores, Bellow and the neoconservatives aligned with the more authentic sensibilities of average Americans. In other words, the neoconservative mind was the intellectualization of the white working-class ethos. As a Commentary writer put it: “Three working men discoursing of public affairs in a bar may perhaps display more clarity, shrewdness, and common sense” than a representative of the “new class” with his “heavy disquisitions.”
In this way neoconservatives helped make sense of the seemingly incongruous fact that some of nation’s most privileged citizens doubled as its most adversarial. These were the people the Catholic intellectual and budding neoconservative Michael Novak labeled the “Know-Everythings”: “affluent professionals, secular in their values and tastes and initiatives, indifferent to or hostile to the family, equipped with postgraduate degrees and economic security and cultural power.”
NOTE: This is an excerpt from an anti-conservative book.
So you have to wade through nonsense like this to glean all the good stuff:
“In this sense, class resentment aimed at academics made sense, in a misplaced sort of way, since they indeed held the levers to any given individual’s future economic success.”
So… why is it “misplaced” if it is so damned “indeed”…?