Who is the elite, and who isn’t?

There’s a post by Simon Kuper in the FT, detailing who he considers to be the elite that everyone is talking about. I found the analysis to be shallow and posted a response.

Simon Kuper, your analysis comes up profoundly short, yours is not an anthropology of the elite, it rather is what you see in the mirror. And then caricatured. You’re a columnist at the FT and not a 23 yr old revolutionary. Accept who you are so that you can finally start seeing outside the box.

The elite has faith in society’s institutions. It does not see a need to change these fundamentally to accommodate changing circumstances. The elite benefits too much from these institutions and has faith in its strong, self-referential narratives.

Both the elite and non-elite are very diverse and have great overlap. I’m in both. So are you. So are most.

On the progressive, international, liberal side, there are people who urgently want to have a responsive globalized society that embraces new technologies to face climate change, economic crisis and changing labor conditions. They’re loath to overturn the current order, In many ways they are elitists but are very frustrated with the glacial pace. Lets say they’re the rationalists, pretty much the ones you define as the urban “elite” New Yorker readers. They’re epitomized by Elon Musk. Then on the conservative nationalist side are people who see similar problems but from a different perspective: they haven’t seen pay rises for at least a decade, their neighborhoods have diversified ethnically because of migration, their perception is that they lost employment and security because of globalization and migration. They’ve been whacked out of their comfort zone. They feel threatened by a very rapidly changing world. Epitomized by Stephen Bannon. In newer generations, there actually are people who are cooking up a mixture of many of these non-elite elements. But to see that you actually will have to want to see it and stop thinking like a stakeholder.

Because then there is the actual elite, they live in the past. They want to return to the Reagan/Clinton era, 20 years of grandness in which they saw their own ascent. It’s their comfort zone and they have a stake in it. Most either hold assets or debt or have very easy access to credit. They believe that today’s economy is the same as the one from that bygone era and are afraid to expand the theories of economics with for example the concentration theory because it would delegitimize their claim. Who epitomizes them? Who doesn’t? Both Trump and Obama are members.

France really is a great example of elite failure. Take the Académie française which has a stranglehold on culture and education and (by and large) teaches children to believe in a France that no longer exists. The actual Polytech Enarque elite is binge watching Netflix and HBO while they claim to partake in the idée fixe of the idealized France. This while Paris is the capital of African music and the banlieues are teeming with profoundly globalized cultural revolutions. While the countryside and small towns are emptying and vast malls tell you where the money is. France is being decapitated by the inertia of its head. That same pattern is repeating all over.

The elite is afraid to face the delegitimization of its hold on power. And so, in French style, may be decapitated. It may be inevitable that societies over a few generations grow too inelastic because the stake holders must believe in the process that legitimized their claim while abandoning the responsiveness to adapt to new circumstances.