David Brooks’s FPR Conversion

by Patrick J. Deneen on July 6, 2010 · 6 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

According to this profile of David Brooks, he’s reassessing one of his core beliefs: the goodness of suburbia.

Brooks changed his mind recently. Not one of those small changes, like grande instead of venti. He abandoned an idea that until recently made David Brooks David Brooks.

“I’ve changed my view of suburbia,” he says. We’re sitting at the Best Buns Bread Company in the Village at Shirlington, a sort of prefab town square in Arlington, Virginia, designed to be quaint and homey. The streets are fresh red brick. The lampposts are faux antique. The trees are evenly spaced. A color-coded map explains the area’s layout, like a mall. The neighborhood’s culinary diversity—Aladdin’s Eatery abuts Bonsai Restaurant abuts Guapo’s—is matched only by its patrons’ ethnic lack thereof. We are sipping coffees and munching on identical Ginger Crinkle cookies, when it occurs to me: I am in a David Brooks book. We are Bobos. This is Paradise.

“In my last book, I was pretty pro-urban/suburban sprawl,” he explains. Pro is an understatement. On Paradise Drive, released in 2004, was a satirical, pop-sociological exploration of American suburbia, but also a celebration of it. Consumerism wasn’t just empty accumulation; it was how Americans express themselves. In the ever-expanding exurbs, he wrote, every man creates his own private bubble, “an aristocrat within his own Olympus.”

“Now I’m much more skeptical,” he says.

I hope we’ll hear more about why he’s changed his mind. I’d like to think that he’s been scanning our pages from time to time. Whatever the reason, it’s good news indeed. Score 1 for FPR, zero for the PoMoCons.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Hans Noeldner July 6, 2010 at 11:39 pm

If enlightenment can strike David Brooks, how dare one loose hope?

Meanwhile, it strikes me that suburbia and exurbia will prove to be barren ground for the growth of mobs if/when gasoline becomes unaffordable/unavailable. The burbers might get mad-as-hell, but given how overweight, out-of-shape, and downright spoilt many of them (OK, us!) are, chances are slim that more than a few will walk or bike five or ten miles to gather and raise hell. Back when farmers used to strike in this country they still had horses and some motor fuel in addition to the physical capacity to walk further than 100 feet from the parking lot to the entrance. This time ’round Everyman may suffer alone – especially if cable TV and cell service wink out along with “open” signs at the gas stations.

Think I read somewhere that one of the things corporate tycoons and political bosses really liked about Levittown back in the day is that it was an arrangement which deterred the congregation of working men. And Levittown circa the 1950′s was fairly dense compared to newer suburbs.

Bereft of fuel for his motorized playthings, no longer able to watch NASCAR, our friend Billy Fourwheeler may burn up most of his frustration just trying to keep food on the table. Perhaps he will vent his remaining traces of wrath on the people who sold him fairy tales and lies.

avatar Steve July 7, 2010 at 2:50 pm

I don’t know. I suspect that Brooks has just become fickle. A while back he wrote a piece about Blond’s visit in which he declared that we were living in a broken society. A short while later, while reviewing “The Next Hundred Million” book, he went on and on about America’s rosy prospects.

avatar Kevin J Jones July 7, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Hans Noelder writes: “chances are slim that more than a few will walk or bike five or ten miles to gather and raise hell.”

Has anyone studied the effect of nearby neighborhoods on the agenda at the state capitol? Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood was once rundown and majority minority but is now gentrifying and largely gay.

Whoever can hassle the legislators in person the most can win too.

avatar D.W. Sabin July 8, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Champion of his BOBOs, Mr. Brooks is devastatingly revealed in the essay: “Good Policy, he argues should understand that people make decisions emotionally , not rationally”. I hope you got as big a laugh out of this one as I did, a red meat laugh, leering and politically incorrect. Like much of his sophist bon bons, it is plausible at first listen and remains believable as long as the noise of modernism drowns out one’s reasoning capacity and leads your nose onto something else. It is as if, on Planet Brooks, the populace is stuck in a form of juvenile, self-gratifying, Attention Deficit Disability and so the State should be principally engaged in presenting governance as a large performance piece. As with most social commentators, he is a better observer of the thin veneer of culture rather than the larger organism. He choses to ignore the dysfunctions afoot. Moreover, he transforms the veneer of dysfunction into the entire body. He is a Booster, bless his bent little heart.

That he should be a tad chastened by his vaunted suburbia, with its increasing foreclosures and important part in the continuing Neo-Conservative Bait and Switch Globalism should come as no surprise, even for an emotionalist like he. Things are not altogether swell on the Beav’s Street. The people, generally nervous, are now jerky too. Nervous and Jerky aint convivial and as the New Yawk Times much vaunted “Conservative liberals can like”, he is sapped of his strength when things aint convivial.

The Neo-Conservatives and their world improving fellow Statists in both the Democrat and Republican Parties have attached themselves to the Globalist War Train. They seek to display a Magnificent America, a kind of Pax Consumerata that will play a movie in every mind. Washington, our Imperial Seat is as much engaged on the far side of the planet and with every thuggish client state as it is with the easily distracted masses residing within the paranoid “Homeland”. The Global Financialists have run their scams and Washington, on our befuddled behalf, has bailed them out . Steadily, the international fixations will increase their dominance until we will no longer be able to maintain the Potemkin facade that Mr. Brooks assiduously props up with his fellow emotional warriors. Eyes cast everywhere but home, one can only hope that they will lose their way and forget how to get back, leaving the rest of us who enjoy a mind of BOTH emotion AND reason to master our own home rather than some glamorous , unobtainable concept of a Perpetually Smiling Globe, whose fiat money is a casino commodity once known as unsecured debt. This would be a first unfortunately, usually the Imperialists create too many enemies and obligations and retreat home, bringing their armies with them to quell any revolt on the part of the roundly flummoxed populace. The Chickens don’t come home to roost, vultures do.

He may come here for a few laughs, smiling at the rustics and their madcap rural romanticism. However, he remains one of the more insufferably wrong purveyors of the toxic Conventional Wisdom that is tearing us down year by year. They take delight in gutting the fabric of the nation because it bores them when compared with the Big Plans Stem To Stern. I wish their bilge pump well.

avatar Hans Noeldner July 14, 2010 at 10:51 am

Kevin – I agree with you about “hassling” the legislature the most. And by God it’s tough for ordinary souls to trump the paid lobbyists in their shiny shoes and fancy suits and tight dresses.

Fortunately I live a mere 12 miles from Wisconsin’s capitol. Takes me 50-60 minutes to pedal there when the weather is nice, but sometimes as much as 70 or 80 minutes in the winter when the bike trail hasn’t been plowed. So I get up there and bug “my” legislators once in a while.

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