Sunday, May 29, 2016

Pop sociology for 2016

One of the most persistent framings of the 2016 USA election coverage has been: Is Donald Trump a Fascist? There are at least 2 problems with this line of inquiry. First, its resolution is only likely to come with some Paolo di Canio-style clarity from Trump, which is unlikely. Second, to the extent the question is on the radar screen of the general public, it's going to make polling more difficult.

Anyway all that's by way of saying that a mechanical relating of Trump to past political phenomena is unlikely to fully explain his support. It's enough to root Trump in white grievance and an eroding working class. There are other dimensions of class and culture.

What prompts this post is an Atrios rumination from yesterday noting that the term hipster has become meaningless because it's applied so widely. The French tend to be more precise about these things, so here's a Le Monde online article from last year to help you figure out whether you're a Bobo or a Hipster. A key difference is the Bobo is a left-leaning and aware but personally striving professional (e.g. kids in private school) while the Hipster is exemplified in the Shoreditch/ Pigalle/ Brooklyn consumerism where it's about a particular type of narcissistic signifiers of status.

Both terms can be used dismissively in political analysis, although in France it seems that Bobo is more pejorative of a cause, whereas in the USA it's Hipster (connecting back to the Atrios complaint about its overuse).

What does all this have to do with Trump? In the USA, where after all the term Bobo was invented (by David Brooks), it gets at a particular group style of professional (with degrees to show for it), liberal-leaning, managerial, technocratic, well off, and aspiring to the consumption patterns of its French cousin. Arguably, two members of this group are currently in the White House (Barack and Michelle Obama). Hillary slightly predates the Bobo in her personal trajectory, but she'd certainly put them in charge of important things.

But Donald Trump, and his voting base, don't like such people. Subsequent posts will pursue this further.   

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