Suddenly, to a lot of voters, those postwar institutional arrangements stopped looking so good. But, of course, the beneficiaries showed no sign of giving them up. This has led to a lot of political discord, and a lot of culture war, since in America class warfare is usually disguised as cultural warfare. But underneath the surface, talk is a battle between the New Class and what used to be the middle class.
If you look at the “yellow jacket” protests in France, the election of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and events in places like Italy and Hungary — or, for that matter, the Brexit movement in Britain — you find a similar unhappiness with institutional arrangements and the sleek and self-satisfied elites who benefit from them. People who, in President Bill Clinton’s famous phrase, worked hard and played by the rules now suspect that the rules were rigged, and that they were treated as chumps.
Talking about the yellow-vest movement, French geographer Christophe Guilluy observes: “Immediately, the protesters were denounced as xenophobes, anti-Semites and homophobes. The elites present themselves as anti-fascist and anti-racist, but this is merely a way of defending their class interests. It is the only argument they can muster to defend their status, but it is not working anymore.”