The Boston Globe Ideas section, the most-consistently interesting weekly newspaper section, provocatively links two seemingly opposite social critics: right-winger David Brooks, NY Times columnist and author of the new On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense, and left-winger Tom Frank, Baffler editor and author of the new What's the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.
Both Brooks and Frank are obsessed with social class -- though their conceptions of it could hardly be more different. And despite their tendency toward caricature, both claim to be sympathetic to the class of Americans they are most concerned with: middle- and upper-middle-class exurbanites in Brooks's case, working-class and small-town Midwesterners in Frank's. "If you are, like me, a fan of American middleness," Frank writes, "Wichita is your kind of place." Brooks, too, claims to love the Americans he lampoons, calling his "the love that old companions feel, in which they enjoy jibing each other for their foibles and perhaps love the foibles best of all."
But some readers may notice a similar internal dissonance within each author's work. Brooks, the conservative, does a terrific job of insulting the people with whom he shares his politics -- all those exurbanites who vote overwhelmingly Republican. Frank does an equally great job of insulting the people he believes should share his politics -- all those working-class, born-again, gun-toting Kansans.
FWIW, Reason has been "insulting" (read: critiquing) Brooks and Frank for years now, and in fact, we even linked Brooks' old employer, The Weekly Standard, and The Baffler years ago, recognizing their common contempt for "consumerism" and their affection for Daniel Bell's "cultural contradictions of capitalism" argument. Read about it here. And read about Frank's anti-market snobbery here. And Brooks' annoying "national greatness" fetish here.