The increasingly “woke” values of the educated upper classes reflect, as Alvin Toffler predicted almost half a century ago, the inevitable consequence of mass affluence, corporate concentration, and the shift to a service economy. The new elite, Toffler foresaw, would abandon traditional bourgeois values of hard work and family for “more aesthetic goals, self-fulfillment as well as unbridled hedonism.” Affluence, he observed, “serves as a base from which men begin to strive for post economic goals.”
The driving force for these changes has been the ascendant clerisy, which, reprising the role that the Church played in medieval times, sees itself as anointed to direct human society, a modern version of the “oligarchy of priests and monks whose task it was to propitiate heaven,” in the words of the great French historian of the Middle Ages, Marc Bloch. Traditional clerics remained part of this class but were joined by others—university professors, scientists, public intellectuals, and heads of charitable foundations. This secular portion of society has now essentially replaced the clergy, serving as what German sociologist Max Weber once called society’s “new legitimizers.” The clerisy spans an ever-growing section of the workforce that largely works outside the market economy—teachers, consultants, lawyers, government workers, and medical professionals. Meantime, positions common among the traditional middle class—small-business owners, workers in basic industries and construction—have dwindled as a share of the job market.
The educated, affluent class detests President Trump, whom many in the Third Estate support, and has rallied to its preferred candidate, Elizabeth Warren, who emerges from the legal and university communities and voices the progressive rhetoric common to this class. (Warren’s less brainy left-wing rival, Bernie Sanders, fares better among struggling, often younger workers.) Warren’s clerisy supporters represent what French Marxist author Christophe Guilluy calls the “privileged stratum,” which operates from an assumption of moral superiority that justifies its right to rule. They are the apotheosis of H. G. Wells’s notion of an “emergent class of capable men” that could “take upon itself the task of “controlling and restricting . . . the non-functional masses.” This new elite, Wells predicted, would replace democracy with a “higher organism” of what he called “the New Republic.”