This image is the cover of the last book we explored – The Decadent Society (2020) by Ross Douthat. It’s an old French print (“Gargantuan Having a Big Meal”) illustrating decadence and gluttony (1 of 7 deadly sins along with lust, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride). For our present purpose it shows the immoral ugliness of feudalism. Peasants are at the bottom with an enabling Clerisy on the table feeding an Oligarch. The artist depicts disgust with the dude on the left defecating in bowl on the table.
Part III of our current project, The Coming of Neo Feudalism (2020) by Joel Kotkin is “The Clerisy”. Chapter 7 (The New Legitimizers) is the best one, addressing cultural morality. Chapter 8 (The Control Tower) shows us how ridiculous academia has become. Chapter 9 (New Religions) underscores how deathly seriously people are taking all of these bad, immoral ideas. And that’s the point – it’s not merely differing opinion; it’s morality vs. immorality/sin.
Kotkin compares the medieval clerisy (who wielded the powerful moral authority of the Catholic Church at the time), preaching a value system that sought to replace classical society – materialism, individualism, beauty and ambition – with chastity, self-sacrifice and otherworldliness, to today’s “clerisy of intellectuals”, who also wish to impose their value system upon everyone else.
This new knowledge class of cultural legitimizers believe themselves more enlightened than the average person. And those who harbor a sense of natural superiority tend to support strong governmental action in line with their personal values and an over confidence in their own competence. But the history of unaccountable rule by “experts” or those claiming intellectual superiority is atrocious. Experts do not own a monopoly on virtue or wisdom. In fact, they routinely loose in a straight up battle of reason. Here’s an article on why progressives are afraid of a level playing field:
Kotkin draws parallels to the Middle Ages and today where Clerisy beliefs are imposed as true, reason be damned. Academics are now frantically engaged in eagerness to know more and more about less and less. End note 26 to chapter 8 blew my mind. 90% of academic papers are never ever cited! Many University professors in the social sciences are now demonstrating their irrelevance to actual knowledge because their mission is to promote a particular set of leftist beliefs rather than teach. And even though this belief system is incoherent, its adherents cling to it with the passion and ferocity of deeply held religious convictions.
Next week, we move on to the embattled upper middle class – that’s us!