“Solidarity with the uneducated”
The editors of n+1 on the “Revolt of the Elites”:
[E]litism…usually refers to a much narrower phenomenon than just a fancy education. Recall that in 2004 the educational backgrounds of the cultural elitist John Kerry (St. Paul’s, Yale) and the cultural populist George Bush (Andover, Yale) were remarkably similar. Kerry’s elitism signified not that he had gone to such schools but that he appeared to have learned something there, including — l’inutile beauté — French. The ineducable Bush meanwhile suggested solidarity with the uneducated. A Harvard MBA merely proved that any interest he had in knowledge was purely mercenary. In a business society where mercenary motives constitute a kind of innocence — It’s my fiduciary responsibility to increase shareholder value is our I was just following orders — this much could be forgiven.
The mercenary or commercial consideration seems crucial. The elitism charge mostly exempts those who’ve been to expensive colleges so long as they’ve only learned how to make money there. This absolves not only CEOs but doctors and lawyers, provided they don’t engage in humanitarian work. (Are medicine and law considered “elitist” because rich people can afford better doctors and lawyers than the non-rich, as well as more easily become doctors and lawyers? No private tutoring required to guess the answer is no.) The term even spares Ivy-garlanded culture producers who earn a lot of money making movies and TV programs that people without a lot of money or education enjoy watching.
Who, then, is guilty of elitism, if not the elitely educated in general? The main culprits turn out to be people for whom a monied and therefore educated background lies behind the adoption of aesthetic, intellectual, or political values that demur from the money-making mandate that otherwise dominates society.
Read the whole thing here.