Summary and book reviews of Bobos In Paradise by David Brooks

Bobos In Paradise

The New Upper Class and How They Got There

By David Brooks

Bobos In Paradise
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  • Hardcover: May 2000,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2001,
    288 pages.

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Book Summary

It used to be pretty easy to distinguish between the bourgeois world of capitalism and the bohemian counterculture. The bourgeois worked for corporations, wore gray, and went to church. The bohemians were artists and intellectuals. Bohemians championed the values of the liberated 1960s; the bourgeois were the enterprising yuppies of the 1980s.

But now the bohemian and the bourgeois are all mixed up, as David Brooks explains in this brilliant description of upscale culture in America. It is hard to tell an espresso-sipping professor from a cappuccino-gulping banker. Laugh and sob as you read about the information age economy's new dominant class. Marvel at their attitudes toward morality, sex, work, and lifestyle, and at how the members of this new elite have combined the values of the countercultural sixties with those of the achieving eighties. These are the people who set the tone for society today, for you. They are bourgeois bohemians: Bobos.

Are you a Bobo?

  • Do you believe that spending $15,000 on a media center is vulgar, but that spending $15,000 on a slate shower stall is a sign that you are at one with the Zenlike rhythms of nature?

  • Does your newly renovated kitchen look like an aircraft hangar with plumbing? Did you select your new refrigerator on the grounds that mere freezing isn't cold enough?

  • Would you spend a little more for socially conscious toothpaste -- the kind that doesn't actually kill germs, it just asks them to leave?

  • Do you work for one of those hip, visionary software companies where everybody comes to work in hiking boots and glacier glasses, as if a 400-foot wall of ice were about to come sliding through the parking lot?
  • Do you think your educational credentials are just as good as those of the shimmering couples on the New York Times weddings page?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you are probably a member of today's new upper class. Even if you didn't, you'd still better pay attention, because these Bobos define our age. Their hybrid culture is the atmosphere we breathe. Their status codes govern social life, and their moral codes govern ethics and influence our politics. Bobos in Paradise is a witty and serious look at the cultural consequences of the information age and a penetrating description of how we live now.

Introduction

This book started with a series of observations. After four and a half years abroad, I returned to the United States with fresh eyes and was confronted by a series of peculiar juxtapositions. WASPy upscale suburbs were suddenly dotted with arty coffeehouses where people drank little European coffees and listened to alternative music. Meanwhile, the bohemian downtown neighborhoods were packed with multimillion-dollar lofts and those upscale gardening stores where you can buy a faux-authentic trowel for $35.99. Suddenly massive corporations like Microsoft and the Gap were on the scene, citing Gandhi and Jack Kerouac in their advertisements. And the status rules seemed to be turned upside down. Hip lawyers were wearing those teeny tiny steel-framed glasses because now it was apparently more prestigious to look like Franz Kafka than Paul Newman.

The thing that struck me as oddest was the way the old categories no longer made sense. Throughout the twentieth century it's ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
The New York Times Book Review

The book is a pleasure, simultaneously bracing and comforting, like a sauna.

The New York Times Book Review

The book is a pleasure, simultaneously bracing and comforting, like a sauna.

Kirkus Reviews

A lighthearted morphology that traces the evolution, mating rituals, and nervous system of a new group of social animals the bourgeois bohemians (Bobos) who arose from the affluent educated class and reconciled the counterculture values of the 1960s to the entrepreneurial energies of the 1980s......Like Tom Wolfe, Brooks can toss off nifty neologisms like Latte Towns (upscale liberal communities, often university-based, that are fueled by gourmet coffee) and Status-Income Disequilibrium (young intellectuals resentment that their income doesn't match their professional achievements). Yet Brooks can neither achieve brilliant comic heights achieved by the observer of radical chic and The Me Decade, nor back his viewpoint with the spine of sharp reporting that informs even Wolfe's fiction.

Reader Reviews
Christine

Favorable
Recently pulled up a sample of this book on my Kindle and barely into it knew I had to read the whole thing. What a refreshing and delicious sociological analysis. Who knew we Americans were such an hysterically funny people. Bears remembering ...   Read More

laura

Bobos not as cool as yesteryear
Using wit rather than analysis, Brooks compliments his readers on their quirky tastes while ignoring the vast number of Americans, and others, who do not fit his consumer taste class, either because they do not in fact share the values he describes ...   Read More

Jessica Mende

Hells Ya
David david David. Brooks Brooks Brooks. I am in love with this man. Anyone who can write sociology like this and with such sharp wit? A+ Why can't other sociologists write like this? Serious, if all of us were like this more people would '...   Read More

Javier Gonzalez

I enjoy this book very much! I am agree with everything that David Brooks wrote in this book.

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