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The Two Middle Classes

Politicians across the Western world like to speak fondly of the “middle class” as if it is one large constituency with common interests and aspirations. But, as Karl Marx observed, the middle class has always been divided by sources of wealth and worldview. Today, it is split into two distinct, and often opposing, middle classes. First there is the yeomanry or the traditional middle class, which consists of small business owners, minor landowners, craftspeople, and artisans, or what we would define historically as the bourgeoisie, or the old French Third Estate, deeply embedded in the private economy. The other middle class, now in ascendency, is the clerisy, a group that makes its living largely in quasi-public institutions, notably universities, media, the non-profit world, and the upper bureaucracy.

Standing between the oligarchs, who now own as much as 50 percent of the world’s assets, and the growing population of propertyless serfs, the traditional middle class increasingly struggles for survival against those with the greatest access to capital and political power. The power of this modern-day equivalent of the Medieval aristocracy, what the French referred to as the Second Estate, seems likely to grow; a recent British parliamentary study projects that, by 2030, the top one percent will expand their share to two-thirds of the world’s wealth, with the biggest gains overwhelmingly concentrated in the top .01 percent. One of the upshots of this concentration of economic power is that entrepreneurship is now declining even in the capitalist hotbed of America.

In contrast, the clerisy has a far less adversarial relationship with the uber-rich, since they operate in large part outside the market system. Like the Catholic Church in Medieval times, this part of the middle class enjoys something of a symbiosis with the oligarchal elites, the main financiers of NGOs, and the universities, and dominates the media and culture industries that employ so many of them. They are often also beneficiaries of the regulatory state, either directly as high-level government employees, or as consultants, attorneys, or through non-profits.

The rise of the clerisy

The term clerisy was coined by Samuel Coleridge in the 1830s to define a class of people whose job it was to instruct and direct the masses. Traditional clerics remained part of this class, but they were joined by others—university professors, scientists, public intellectuals, and the heads of charitable foundations. Since the industrial revolution, the clerisy has expanded and become ever-more secular, essentially replacing the religious clergy as what the great German sociologist Max Weber called society’s “new legitimizers.”1

Although certainly not unanimous in their views, the clerisy generally favors ever-increasing central control and regulation. French economist Thomas Piketty calls them “the Brahmin Left,” pointing out that their goal is not necessarily growth, nor greater affluence for hoi polloi, but a society shaped by their own progressive beliefs. In this respect, they are, despite a generally secular ideology, reprising the role played in feudal society by the Catholic Church, or what the French referred to as the First Estate.

Today’s clerisy are concentrated in professions whose numbers have grown in recent decades, including teaching, consulting, law, the medical field, and the civil service. In contrast, the size of the traditional middle class—small business owners, workers in basic industries, and construction—have seen their share of the job market decline and shrink.2 Some professions that were once more closely tied to the private economy, such as doctors, have become subsumed by bureaucratic structures and—in the United States, at least—shifted from a dependable conservative lobby to an increasingly progressive one.

These shifts are, if anything, more pronounced in Europe. In France, over 1.4 million lower skilled jobs have disappeared in the past quarter-century while technical jobs, often in the public sector, have sharply increased. Those working for state industries, universities, and in other clerisy-oriented positions, enjoy far better benefits, notably pensions, than those working in the purely private sector.  To be sure, members of the clerisy have to suffer Europe’s high taxes on the middle class, but they also benefit far more than others from the state’s largesse.

At its apex, the clerisy today is made up largely of the well-educated offspring of the affluent. This class has become increasingly hereditary, in part due to the phenomena of well-educated people marrying each other—between 1960 and 2005, the share of men with university degrees who married women with university degrees nearly doubled, from 25 – 48 percent. “After one generation,” the American sociologist Daniel Bell predicted nearly half a century ago, “a meritocracy simply becomes an enclaved class.”3

How big is the clerisy? One analyst, Michael Lind estimates that what he calls the “overclass” comprises some 15 percent of the American workforce. This is far larger than the membership of the old First Estate, which was closer to one percent of the French population. Another estimate defines the clerisy more narrowly, and estimates that they comprise roughly 2.4 million people out of a country of over 320 million.4

Like their Medieval counterparts in the old First Estate, members of the contemporary clerisy insist that they are motivated not by self-interest but rather by pursuit of the common good. They constitute “the privileged stratum,” in the words of French left-wing analyst Christophe Guilluy, operating from an assumption of “moral superiority” that justifies their right to instruct others.5 This power is greatly enhanced by their control of culture, most media, the education systemseight in 10 British professors are on the Left—and throughout the bureaucracy.

The embattled yeomanry

The perspective of the traditional middle class generally differs from that of the clerisy, and constitutes what Piketty labels the “merchant Right.” These people make their living in the marketplace, and that often places them in conflict with both the oligarchs, who continually seek to crush or absorb their businesses, or with the clerisy, which hands down environmental and other regulations that inhibit their activities. Generally speaking, larger firms are far more adept at adjusting to these strictures than smaller firms.

The property-owning yeomanry has long been critical to the development of democracy. The earliest democracies in Athens and the Roman Republic rested on an assertive property-owning middle class. Aristotle warned about the dangers of an oligarchy that would control both the economy and the state. Ultimately, ever-greater consolidation of wealth played a major role in undermining Greek democracy and the citizen-led Roman Republic.6 As the middle orders weakened, autocracy followed, first in the form of Empire, and later in the disunity and social stagnation of the Dark Ages.

The yeomanry’s great ascendency came with the resurgence at the end of the Middle Ages of independent proprietors, notably in the Netherlands and Britain. This class later swelled, particularly after the 1789 Revolution in France, and among the British colonial offspring in Canada, Australia, and the United States. A 2016 study covering the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States shows that all three saw a rapid decline in the concentration of wealth from the 1820s up to the 1970s. Never has so much prosperity and relative economic security been as widely enjoyed as it is today.

However, the decades after the 1970s also saw the shift to a greater concentration of wealth accelerate and became inexorable after the financial crash in 2007 – 8. Although the financial institutions helped create the crisis, they ended up as the biggest winners from the largely asset-based prosperity that followed the Great Recession. Main Street businesses and ordinary homeowners, meanwhile, did poorly. As one conservative economist succinctly observed in 2018, “The economic legacy of the last decade is excessive corporate consolidation, a massive transfer of wealth to the top one percent from the middle class.” 

The yeomanry’s distress can be seen in everything from falling rates of business formation as well as declining homeownership, particularly among  the young, most notably in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Even in the United States, a country that never experienced feudalism, the proportion of land owned by the nation’s 100 largest private landowners grew by nearly 50 percent between 2007 and 2017.

Land ownership in Europe is also increasingly concentrated in smaller hands; in Great Britain, where land prices have risen dramatically over the past decade, less than one percent of the population owns half of all the land. On the continent, farmland is increasingly concentrated while urban real estate has fallen into the hands of a small cadre of corporate owners and the mega-wealthy.

Growing corporate concentration, in both the US and Europe, has now seeped into the once dynamic tech economy. In Silicon Valley, the renowned garage culture is being supplanted by a gargantua of giant firms that have achieved market power unprecedented in modern times, controlling in some cases 80 – 90 percent of their key niches like search, social media, cellular, and computer operating systems. One online publisher uses a Star Trek analogy to describe his firm’s status with Google: “It’s a bit like being assimilated by the Borg. You get cool new powers. But having been assimilated, if your implants were ever removed, you’d certainly die. That basically captures our relationship to Google.”

Coming attractions: the war within the middle class

The decline of the yeomanry threatens the future of democracy as we have known it. Faced with growing assaults on their businesses, and in some cases, their communities, they have begun to fight back against many of the policies, notably climate policy, that are widely supported by the oligarchs and the clerisy. A policy to force the rapid replacement of fossil fuels with heavily subsidized renewables requires the development of the kind of largely unaccountable bureaucracies that both employ and empower the clerisy while providing the oligarchs both in the US and Europe with a unique opportunity to cash in on energy “transitions.”

In contrast, for large parts of the yeomanry, a call for a rapid, radical shift towards renewables imposes much higher energy prices. It also threatens to diminish industries in which many of them work and undercut the sustenance to the Main Street merchants in smaller cities and the countryside. Already attempts to impose such policies have led to yeoman rebellions in a number of countries.

President Emmanuel Macron’s energy price rise may be popular in the salons of the Paris elite, but not so much among the vast majority, notably the 90 percent of regional residents, who work outside the central district as well as the habitués of the smaller cities and towns of La France Périphérique. The massive gilets jaunes protests in France last year sparked similar protests in normally quieter countries like Norway and the Netherlands. Steady energy price rises from green policies, as well as boosts in subway fares, have resulted in major protests around Chile’s capital Santiago, with 20 deaths and 1,200 injured.

Similarly ultra-green policies—favored by the clerisy and their oligarchal allies—have been resoundingly rejected by voters in Australia, allowing for a surprise conservative victory, and in places like Ontario and Alberta, Canada, where green regulations impact basic industries, such as oil and manufacturing, critical to the yeomanry. Calls for a radical “Green New Deal,” endorsed by a number of leading Democrats, are likely to spur a similar response in the vast American “oil patch” from the Appalachians to west Texas.

But the chasm between the yeomanry and the clerisy also extends to broader issues, from border control to national identity, immigration, and the locus of political control. For the most part, the yeomanry favor local authority over more distant rule, while the clerisy favors the opposite. This was evident in the Brexit vote and the recent UK parliamentary elections, where the cosmopolitan clerisy, London-based and highly educated, largely rejected Brexit while the middle, as well as much of the working class, particularly outside the South-East, and property owners, favored Brexit and its implementer, Prime Minister Boris Johnson. A remarkable 57 percent of people who owned their own home supported Johnson compared to barely 22 percent for Labour.

As America prepares for its quadrennial presidential marathon, these divisions are painfully evident. No president has ever incurred the wrath of the clerisy—the media, the entertainment industry, academia—more than Donald Trump. But Trump retains record support among the small business people on Main Street, particularly in the manufacturing and energy-dependent parts of the country. The climatistas’ appeal is not likely to improve as they increasingly advocate the elimination of ownership of single-family houses, preferred by most middle class people, in order to promote an allegedly climate-friendly density regime.

The struggle between the two middle classes is not just a matter of wealth and power, but also of retaining the social basis for democracy itself. Without a strong, independent middle class operating outside the control of large institutions, be they tech giants or governments, we may be heading towards a technocratic future, that as one Silicon Valley wag put it, resembles  “feudalism with better marketing.”

An independent and assertive property-owning middle class that can thrive remains the only force able to challenge ever-growing centralization. Without them, there is likely no way to prevent a new feudal order from emerging in the future. As the radical social theorist Barrington Moore suggested a half-century ago, “no bourgeoisie, no democracy.”7

 

Joel Kotkin is a presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University and executive director for the Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His last book was The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us (Agate, 2017). His next book, The Coming of Neo-Feudalism, will come out from Encounter early next year. You can follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin

References:

1 Max Weber, Economy and Society Volume 1 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), xcviii; Marc Bloch, Marc Bloch, Feudal Society, op cit., 345.
2 Analysis of job data by Mark Schill based on EMSI calculations.
3 Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society (New York: Basic Books, 1973),  427.
4 Charles Murray, Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010 (New York: Crown Books, 2012), 19-20.
5 Christophe Guilluy, Twilight of the Elites: Prosperity, the Periphery, and the Future of France (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), 2, 9.
6  Jeffrey A. Winters, Oligarchy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 78–90; Montesquieu: Selected Political Writings, ed. and trans. Melvin Richter (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1990), 86–87; Aristotle, Politics, trans. Benjamin Jowett, Bk. 3, http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/politics.3.three.html.
7 Barrington Moore, Jr., Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World (Boston: Beacon, 1967), 418.

Featured image: wikicommons

Comments

  1. There are a lot of fine data points and notions scattered throughout this article, though the general thrust is undermined by a few unsupported ideological notions. Overall, there is value to filling out the definitions of these two different camps. There would be more value in recognizing that there are subcamps within those camps, and actually quite a lot more diverse, opposing factions interacting in our society.

    It’s almost as if everyone is an individual.

    One particular quibble, to get our arguments started: this notion that “concentration of wealth” indicates a problem. Leftists have written books on their notion that modern prosperity ought to afford everyone the basics of life even if they do no work at all. Minimalism as a virtuous lifestyle is extolled in a variety of settings. Consumerism is mocked. UBI is proposed. And so on.

    And yet, when these utopian visions are actually seen in practice, they’re treated as grave injustices.

    Why?

    INEQUALITY!!!

    I have mentioned in the past that diversity is inequality. The Left’s greatest good and its greatest evil are synonyms. This reality underlies almost every modern political conflict, and it’s why these conflicts seem unresolvable.

    The Left wants us to be able to choose to contribute nothing, but also be equals, which can only work if everyone contributes nothing, which means we all starve to death.

    It’s insane.

    The reason that the “ownership class” is a smaller and smaller percentage of society is that the Left’s cultural influence is dominant. It is more appealing than ever to “mail it in” - to do just enough to live the comfortable middle class life of what the article calls the “clerisy”. The marginal value of entrepreneurship may be decent in terms of dollars, but it sucks in terms of overall quality of life. Why work stressful hundred-hour weeks at ventures with high risk/reward profiles when slacking your way through the 9-to-5 pays for the car, the crib, the AC, the pizza, and the Netflix? And more importantly, it actually gives you enough free time to enjoy them?

    Mailing it in is vastly more rewarding than it ever was before.

    It is understandable that there is a clash between what are essentially the Rich Dads and the Poor Dads of Robert Kiyosaki’s famous book (the two middle classes described in the article are essentially the Bs and Is vs the Es and Ss of Kiyosaki’s Cashflow Quadrant paradigm). Even if many members of the two camps are roughly equivalent in wealth, they are diametrically opposed in worldview, as Kiyosaki often points out regarding his two dads.

    They hate each other.

    But this complaint that they don’t “own” a significant amount compared to the uber-successful is just an asinine distraction. They don’t genuinely aspire to own more - not to do the work of getting there nor to do the work of being there (with great power comes great responsibility, Spider-Man!). They just like to complain, because they’re human beings and that’s what we do.

    But when your proposed “solution” is to consolidate ALL of the wealth in Bernie Sanders’ hands, how seriously should we take your complaint?

  2. Good article, but I would echo @jdfree49 point. Inequality should concern us not at all- if the Left really cared about the poor or disenfranchised, then they would only care about poverty, and a lack of upward opportunity for the working poor. It’s also worth noting that most of the wealth being concentrated in the hands of a relative few actually represents productive working capital, as opposed to rentier economics. By all means, criticise the tax system for taxing capital gains at rates wildly divergent from profit-driven corporation tax rates, leading to the market overvaluation of capital growth at the expense of productive revenue, but don’t imply that you want to strangle the Golden Goose by reforming this accumulation of wealth.

    But my main point would be that the article dwells too much on the middle class, and not enough on the working class. Because in both the case of Trump, and Boris Johnson’s recent historic landslide victory, it is the working classes that have been deserting the Left in droves. This points to a schism between the clerisy who are largely pro-globalisation, pro-immigration and pro-multiculturalism, and the working classes, who are not. A part of this, comes from the fact that especially in the case of skilled trade professionals, the working classes have become increasingly aspirational, and in many cases emancipated themselves by becoming self-employed, or working for a close friend. In virtually every area of home-related repairs and most home improvements, the movement is from large to small, with larger entities unable to compete with the dynamic efficiencies of little or no bureaucracy.

    And this aspirational movement is at odds with the worldview of the clerisy. It used to be true that a British worker passing a Rolls Royce outside a factory would spit on it, whilst an American worker would say to themselves that I am going to own one of those, one of these days- whereas now the British worker, especially if skilled, is more likely to be driving around in an older BMW or Mercedes. So whilst the clerisy sees any sort of anti-immigration sentiment as evidence of racism, bemoans the patriarchy of the West and confuses themselves over gender pronouns, the traditional working class Left has had enough with nobody representing their interest.

    It may be an uneasy alliance between free market conservatives, and the new constituency of the aspirational working class, and only time will tell whether or not it can hold, and fuse itself into a new political whole. But the Left needs to contend with the fact that the new centre ground is culturally centre-Right, whilst ranging from centrism to the centre-Left, on economics. The best that the Right can do in these circumstances is aim for policies that provide economic stimulus with as little Government as possible, making each initiative limited both in resources and timespan.

    With these sorts of cautious, prudent policies they would demonstrate that they both care about the plight of ordinary working folks, but are also unwilling to jeopardise the broader economy with unlimited Government expansion. Of course reforming Government to help pay for it all, and shifting budgets from bureaucracy to infrastructure would probably go a long way, as well. Infrastructure has always been the most vote-winning aspect of the Left’s agenda, given that it usually means jobs for ordinary people, after all.

  3. In the US class is almost exclusively associated with income and wealth. I understand that’s not the case in most of the west, but it is here. If a plumber buys an expensive home he will be welcomed to the neighborhood as it is assumed that he earned his place there. It matters not if he were born to a poor family in a poor part of town. If anything, he will be seen as a greater success than those living in the same conditions to which they were born, as long as he keeps his lawn manicured, a clean car in the driveway and has decent manners.

  4. I’d suggest that the real distinction between the “clerisy” and the old-fashioned bourgeoise is economic security. The “clerisy” generally work in protected jobs. While they can lose the job, the job itself is relatively secure, decently paid, and often has good fringe benefits. Government workers are prime examples, but so are doctors, lawyers, accountants, bankers etc who work in restricted professions where competition is controlled.

    The bourgeoise, on the other hand, live in the raw private sector. If their restaurant, plumbing business, or whatever does not do well, they are screwed. The not only risk losing their jobs, but their life savings as well.

    So while the “clerisy” are taking fewer risks in their economic lives, they are more willing to take political risks–after all, their jobs are pretty secure. The bourgeoise, on the other hand, are taking more private economic risks, and tend to be more conservative in the political choices—their personal downside is much larger.

    Of course, one should note that the clerisy’s political risk-taking tends to be in ways that do not effect themselves. They prefer more density but not in their suburban enclave, more mass transit so there is less traffic for them when they drive, lower carbon emissions as long as they can still have their ski vacations, and so on.

  5. To which I would respectfully add is a function of the U.S. never having had hereditary titles.

  6. The Mars probe was a unit conversion issue. But that wasn’t truly the root cause of the problem. The root cause was a bureaucratic NASA culture.

    From the incident report:

    "The discrepancy between calculated and measured position, resulting in the discrepancy between desired and actual orbit insertion altitude, had been noticed earlier by at least two navigators, whose concerns were dismissed because they “did not follow the rules about filling out [the] form to document their concerns”. "

    The issue had already been discovered twice but the engineers failed to fill out the paperwork “correctly” so the issue was ignored.

  7. I liked the article.

    I haven’t seen these terms used to describe American politics but the battle between the clerisy and the yeomanry does seem to accurately describe the current situation.

    " No president has ever incurred the wrath of the clerisy—the media, the entertainment industry, academia—more than Donald Trump. But Trump retains [record support] among the small business people on Main Street, particularly in the manufacturing and energy-dependent parts of the country."

  8. Thank you @PeterfromOZ. Although it appears that the confusion is arising from different usages of the same word. This may be an American concept (I am untraveled, so cannot be sure) but in the United States it is entirely possible to be both “Upper Class” and entirely “Without Class” at the same time. Likewise one can be lower or middle class while still being regarded as “Very classy”.

    One speaks to social status (in America defined almost entirely by financial resources), and one speaks to behavior. Americans do not “confuse income and wealth with class”. Rather it seems the confusion is simply in the different semantical uses of the same word.

  9. I know, right? I’m so sick of the way Americans insist on using language to communicate effectively within the context of their own cultural and historical conditions. It’s so ignorant.

    Fucking idiots. They’re literally so confused about everything that they use the word “class” different than how you use the word “class”! Barbarians! These idiots took that word and thoughtlessly mutilated its definition into something analogous to the English hereditary class system but modified to function within an American context for no apparent reason except ignorance.

  10. This might be the most melodramatic thing I’ve read in awhile. You raise a good point about the Chilean protesters, it’s not evident that example supports the authors thesis. I don’t know if vox is right or if this author is correct, or if the protests had multiple causes and I’m glad you raised this criticism. but then, out of nowhere, you decided to toss rational discourse aside and crank it up to paranoid hysteria levels by insisting this minor error proves incontrovertibly that the author is not only a climate change denier, but that this entire article is a Trojan horse for climate change denialist propaganda and that Quillette is somehow complicit? Literally what?

    First of all, you are incapable of reading minds so you don’t have any clue what the author’s “stealth” motivations are. I can’t fathom how you could possibly think you know this. Secondly, there was nothing at all in this article that denied climate change… at all. There were examples of environmental policies that triggered protests but this is not the same as denying climate change. Analyzing the real world consequences of policies designed to solve a problem is not the same as denying the problem exists. That makes no logical sense. Thirdly, a single flawed example does not invalidate the argument, It simply means that that specific example does not support the argument. Lastly, you need to tone down the paranoid rhetoric like 10 notches. “Pseudointellectual,” “climate truthers,” “sneak.” You took one plus one and somehow arrived at a nefarious plot to spread climate change denialism by disguising it as a class conflict analysis. It’s just a little nutty and you were maybe a little too eager with your accusation, it might come off to some like you’re just trying to find an excuse to disregard this author’s thesis.

  11. Yes, why not use income and class interchangeably and lose all the nuance in the conversation? Why have two different concepts when you can reduce them to one?How dare we expect people to communicate with others about an international phenomenon using terms that have had the same meaning for native English speakers for centuries.

    As I said, when two experts I saw on different occasions effectively said the people in middle class were doing it tough and then expressly labelled the working class as middle class, I realised that they were talking about income and not class.

    Why not use the term middle income if that is what you mean? That term can take in people of any class. The author of this article at least understood that point, and described class based upon occupations.

    It is pointless pretending that western democracies are engaged in class wars, if what you are describing as class is is not class. It’s not the middle class that is falling behind, but certain sections of the working class, the lower middle class and the middle class that are or were tied to industries or occupations that are not producing the wages they once were in comparison with others.

    The idea that the “middle class” is doing badly is silly even if you do use the term to mean middle income. A flash young lawyer just hired by a large firm after gaining his law degree will be a middle income person. But he can expect to be one of the high earners in a few years. So he isn’t doing it tough, especially since he probably is middle class or upper middle class in the proper sense. If necessary, he can rely on mum and dad to help out while he climbs the ladder to success. Thus a large number of people on middle incomes are only temporarily in that level and will rise up to earn high incomes. They can be members of any social class.

    What you can argue is that people who are stuck in middle incomes throughout their whole career might feel that their standard of living is diminishing. That is something @RayAndrews often argues. I’m not so certain that is the real issue. I think it’s more the case that a lot of middle income people in certain areas and industries are no longer middle income earners or fear that they will soon not be. This of course could lead to a loss of social status or class.

  12. I’d take the lazy factor a step further. Why should I go to separate mom and pop shops when I can get everything at Walmart or Target, and cheaper? Why leave the house at all when I can order from Amazon? Why check labels to avoid buying products from the arch enemy China?

    The real vote is with money, and people are voting for McWorld. And all because they’re lazy. When Amazon uses our money to push prog propaganda in the Washington post, we have only ourselves to blame for what results.

  13. I like the framing of the yeomanry vs the clerisy, and I share the view that the yeomanry’s decline in recent years has been, shall we say…undesirable. However, one tiny sliver of hope I would throw out there: I work for a government contractor, so I’m definitely part of the clerisy, and I can tell you there is a great deal of cynicism amongst my tribe. We see the inefficiency, the lack of accountability, the wasted efforts and the indifference of much of the public to what is actually achieved. In the face of that, the idealists and true believers tend to become fewer in number. If you go into any medium-sized city agency, I’d wager that if you could get each employee to talk honestly, off the record, a majority of them just about everywhere would admit that either they are vastly overpaid for the work they perform or that their job simply shouldn’t exist at all.

  14. I can’t see too many people taking seriously a post that starts off with a litany of “No true Scotsman…” fallacy, as in:

    BTW, you forgot to add in the

    (Copyright - just a reminder)

    bit. But I don’t see that your work is in much danger of copyright violation.

  15. I think in his roundabout way, he’s actually advocating for just that. Avoiding the real implications of his pretensions is what usually underlies thinking like this:

    The West has been through the implemented reality of similar fruit-loopy philosophizing so often before, starting with the French Revolution. I can’t remember who said it, but I love the axiom “The grander their schemes, the more bankrupt their policies”, and I think it quite applies here.

    As an aside, I’ve just been reading a review of three new books concerning the French Revolution over on New Criterion, A wild & dangerous effervescence, by James F. Penrose. There’s so much in that period to remind me of where the roots of the modern left actually lie.

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