Wokeness as a Generational Institutional Coup

The opening of David Brook's Atlantic essay about the destructive damage of the "creative class" or the "X people" begins by pandering to them with some cheap shots at Trump supporters. Past that though, he gets at a somewhat interesting point.

By navigating a fluid progressive cultural frontier more skillfully than their hapless Boomer bosses and by calling out the privilege and moral failings of those above them, young, educated elites seek power within elite institutions. Wokeness becomes a way to intimidate Boomer administrators and wrest power from them.

As with the #MeToo movement, there's usually a pretty strong age gap between the big targets and the activists targeting them.

Wokeness, cancel culture, and the like are certainly a way of waging careerist battles through politics. The American Left wouldn't thrive in the upper and upper-middle-class circles that it does if it weren't also a means for settling generational scores and advancing careers.

Hate your parents? Bomb a bank. Want to speed up your career despite a lack of qualifications and skills, start a woke witch hunt using buzzwords you barely understand while howling about your pain and accusing management of causing "literal harm" by refusing to listen.

But wokeness is also a filtering process for rewarding those who know the right words and punishing members of the generational cohort who prioritize study and hard work over political socializing.

Leftist politics had always been a means for young elites to protect their privileges without having to compete on merit. That's why so many leftist leaders from Lenin to Castro to Mao came from upper-class backgrounds.

That's where Brooks get most of the rest of his essay wrong.


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