Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Second, social-democratic parties did not deal equitably with higher education. In 1945, only a small minority of people went to college. But that changed quickly in succeeding decades, as much of the postwar generation flooded into universities across the world. The proportion of young people attending universities only continued to climb as the years passed. Yet instead of directing a commensurate share of resources towards higher education, and distributing them equitably, social-democratic countries generally did the opposite. Most of them did not boost state funding at anything like the necessary scale, and continued to direct disproportionate resources and benefits to schools serving the richest students, or to allow private parties to do so. This is obviously the case in the United States, but not only there. In France, the elite grandes écoles "benefit from public financing two to three times as high per student as in the [normal] universities," Piketty writes. Something similar holds in the U.K. and Germany. 
This was intertwined with a broader resurgence of "neo-proprietarian" ideology across the entire developed world, as libertarian and neoliberal economists advanced an updated version of the Gilded Age economic program that led to the Great Depression and the Second World War. The new moral backing of this resurgence was meritocracy — the idea that the wealthy and educated deserved their elite status by virtue of their superior brain power and work ethic — and many nominally social-democratic parties, above all the U.S. Democratic Party, were infected with and eventually pushed it as hard or harder than right-wing parties. The policy agenda included various proprietarian-inflected trade deals, deregulation, and tax cuts that did indeed undermine the basis of social-democratic systems.

All this profoundly changed the class structure of political parties across the developed world. In the 1950s, parties of the left had a giant advantage among the working class and did less well among better-educated and richer voters, while parties of the right did the opposite. But gradually, left parties took up a greater and greater share of the highly-educated, and made some inroads into higher-income and wealthier voters, while right parties simultaneously started to pick up the working class. Where elites used to be largely housed in right-wing parties, the system that began to take hold around 1980 had multiple elites — the highest-income and wealthiest voters in the right-wing parties, and the best-educated in the left-wing parties.

Piketty argues that this is because "parties of the left totally changed in nature and adopted completely new platforms." As a result, "the less educationally advantaged classes came to believe that the parties of the left now favor the newly advantaged educated classes and their children over people of more modest backgrounds."

Piketty rightly disagrees with American political scientists who have argued that the rightward movement of the American working class is entirely driven by ex nihilo bigotry and mindless identity politics. He does not deny that bigotry (especially the anti-immigrant variety) indeed has political traction in many countries. But blaming the rise of the extreme right on the rancid beliefs of the working classes fails to explain the universality and gradualness of the voting shift. Between 1960 and 2019, left parties slowly went from losing the top 10 percent most highly-educated voters, often by a huge margin, to winning them, in the U.S., U.K., Sweden, France, Germany, Norway, Italy, Switzerland, Canada, Holland, Australia, and New Zealand. The margins vary but the trend is inexorable and consistent. These countries have wildly varying politics around immigration and racism, but all were subject to the neo-proprietarian global economic order.

As Piketty notes, the racism hypothesis also excuses left party elites for bad decisions: "It is obviously very convenient for the elites to explain everything by stigmatizing the supposed racism of the less advantaged." And on the other hand, if the working classes were really fervent adherents of xenophobic politics, one would expect them to vote in large numbers for right-wing parties. In reality, "The fact that [their turnout] is very low clearly shows that many less-advantaged voters are not satisfied with the choices presented to them," he writes.
Quinn Slobodian and Mirowski were two of the editors of Nine Lives of Neoliberalism.
Slobidian blocked me on twitter for reminding him that intellectual history is not synonymous with history. The French, most of them, have a sense of irony that American academics will never get.
It's good that Americans are reading Piketty now and not Bourdieu.
But if “using rare words and tropes in place of common words and phrases” is a strategy of “deliberate transgression” of the norms of clear prose characteristic of the dominant classes and is opposed to “the hyper-correction strategies of pretentious outsiders,” then Bourdieu is a master strategist. Words such as lexis, allodoxia, chiastic, askesis, espace hodologique, hysteresis, and of course habitus (and, indeed, hysteresis of habitus) are scattered throughout the text. That a work of social science should—”unlike the sometimes illuminating intuitions of the essay”—require an effort on the part of the reader is fair enough. Here, however, reality disappears into the hypertrophied rhetoric of the Ecole Normale.
Graph from Piketty
Piketty explains the obvious.
I wrote a book called "If you're an Egalitarian How Come You're so Rich?" And the final chapter discusses fourteen reasons people give for not giving away their money when they're rich but they profess belief in equality, twelve of which are, well, rubbish. I think there are two reasonable answers that a person who doesn't give too much of it away can give and one of them has to do with the burden of depressing yourself below the level of your peer group with whom you're shared a certain way of life; and in particular, depriving your children of things that the children around them favor. 
No crab-faced alien can be blamed for transforming me from a slacker in a black dress into what I am today. According to sociologist Annette Lareau, I’m a product of my social class.
24/7 nanny coverage means hiring three full-time (8 hour shift) nannies, down to two when your kid is able to sleep through night regularly. Having a nanny on shift does not mean you never interact with the kid. It can mean that while your playing outside he or she is doing the kid’s laundry. It means that when a colleague returns your calls while your playing or feeding your child, you can take the call without yelling for your spouse to stop what she’s doing to watch your child. I’ve seen the stress-levels that dual professional couples with dual-nannies display around the house. It’s a lot less than the stress-levels at mine, where there are no nannies.
He also explains Buppie neoliberalism.

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