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Politics & Current Affairs

The New Cultural Elite

Has any concept more completely defined and disfigured public life over the last generation than so-called elitism? The term has created a broad and lasting culture war, says n+1.

The first thing to note is the migration of the word elite and its cognates away from politics proper and into culture. Today “the cultural elite” is almost a redundancy — the culture part is implied—while nobody talks anymore about what C. Wright Mills in 1956 called “the power elite.” Mills glanced at journalists and academics, but the main elements of the elite, in his sense, were not chatterers and scribblers but (as George W. Bush might have put it) deciders: generals, national politicians, corporate boards.


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