Joel Kotkin on the Cathedral Clerisy:

In “The New Class Conflict,” I describe this alliance as the New Clerisy, which encompasses the media, the academy and the expanding regulatory bureaucracy. This Clerisy already dominates American intellectual and cultural life and increasingly has taken virtual control of key governmental functions, as well as the educations of our young people. […] Although usually somewhat progressive by inclination, the Clerisy actually functions much like the old First Estate in France – the clergy – helping determine the theology, morals and ideals of the broader population. […] Against such established and accumulated power, even a strong November showing by the GOP may have surprisingly little effect. Indeed, even with a Republican in the White House, the Clerisy’s ability to shape perceptions, educate the young and control key regulatory agencies will not much diminish. The elevation of the Clerisy to unprecedented influence may prove this president’s most important “gift” to posterity.

Kotkin throws in some misdirection, towards “Daniel Bell [who 40 years ago] predicted … [the rise to] ‘pre-eminence of the professional and technical class.'” You can judge the credibility of this intellectual genealogy for yourself.

(Link and title stolen from Stirner.)

October 20, 2014admin 16 Comments »

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16 Responses to this entry

  • Erebus Says:

    Looks like unabashed plagiarism to me. I wonder if there’s a shoutout to Moldbug in “The New Class Conflict.”

    …Besides his blatant copping of Moldbug, the book doesn’t seem it’s worth the paper it’s printed on. From the Amazon synopsis:

    “The New Class Conflict is written largely from the point of view of those who are, to date, the losers [in the class conflict between silicon valley oligarchs and “the Clerisy”]: the middle class. This group, which Kotkin calls the Yeomanry, has been the traditional bulwark of American society, politics, and economy. Yet under pressure from the ascendant Oligarchs and ever more powerful Clerisy, their prospects have diminished the American dream of class mobility that has animated its history and sustained its global appeal.”

    I don’t even know where to begin with this. The author means well, but it looks like total nonsense. “The Yeomanry”? An argument that “ascendant Oligarchs” (who have primarily “ascended” from the middle class) has, somehow, nothing to do with class mobility? The middle class as the traditional bulwark of American politics?


    Posted on October 20th, 2014 at 3:09 pm Reply | Quote
  • admin Says:

    He’s an unusually honest Democrat, so it’s not surprising that he’s confused.


    Posted on October 20th, 2014 at 3:13 pm Reply | Quote
  • Stirner (@heresiologist) Says:

    I’m glad that admin kept the “laundering” semantics, because that is an important point.

    Kotkin is a legit analyst with a fair number of insights, the New Clerisy does reek of being simply footnotes to Moldbug (without the actual citations).

    However, he is serving the very useful function of taking “dirty” ideas and making them mainstream and legitimate. This is very convenient for Neoreaction for several reasons:

    1) Kotkin is now a gateway into neoreaction for “open minded progressives”. If you agree with Kotkin about the New Clerisy, then the NRx red pill is that much easier to swallow.

    2) Kotkin can now serve as a safe way for closeted Neoreactionaries to test out potential sympathizers in your casual social circles.

    3) Rhetorically, Kotkin now provides independent confirmation of the Cathedral. Neoreactionaries should probably resist the temptation to scoff and claim it is a Moldbug ripoff. In this case, the power move is to cheerfully smile, note that NRx also has extensive analyses of the New Clerisy, and then move to upsell other tentacles of the NRx memeplex.


    Chris B Reply:

    Your analysis is quite frankly devious and manipulative.

    I approve.


    Porphy's Attorney Reply:

    Well people like D. McCloskey, and for all I know Kotkin, claim they got the name and concept “Clerisy” from Tom Wolfe (you can see some NYT hack criticizing Wolfe on it here:,1490976 ).

    As for if there is any MM influence in their take on it, well regardless of the fact that we pretty much know Kotkin reads people who read (& favorably commented, at the time) on MM, we can simply accept Stirner’s advice of treating it as independent convergence/verification/analysis of the same phenomenon.

    After all even with MM his main valuable contribution on the “Cathedral” front was to strip away weeds, clarify, and crystalize themes: a refinement, not *entirely* original even with MM. But a very important refinement & clarification that arguably amounts to a new (enough) contribution (because the weeds and clutter did need to be cleared away, and then various threads woven together, and with a refined analysis of the origins and meaning and teleology of the concept).


    Posted on October 20th, 2014 at 3:49 pm Reply | Quote
  • Thales Says:

    The Cathedral is older than you know, Neo…

    “The clerisy of the nation (a far apter exponent of the thing meant, than the term which the usus et normal loquendi forces on me), the clerisy, I say, or national church, in its primary acception and original intention comprehended the learned of all denominations; — the sage and professor of law and jurisprudence; of medicine and physiology; of music; of military and civil architecure; of the physical sciences; with the mathematical as the common organ of the preceding; in short, all the so called liberal arts and sciences, the possession and application of which constitute the civilization of a country…”


    admin Reply:

    Isn’t this closer to Bell than Moldbug (and Kotkin)? The crucial distinction is the remarkable absence of technicians from the Cathedral, except as cowed functionaries in subordinate positions. The Cathedral is not (contra Bell) a technocracy.


    Thales Reply:

    Yes, it seems the clerisy was repurposed after Gramscianism.


    Posted on October 20th, 2014 at 3:52 pm Reply | Quote
  • Nick B. Steves Says:

    A quibble (with Klotkin, not admin):

    A recent Indiana University study found that barely 7 percent of journalists in 2013 were Republican, compared with nearly a quarter in 1971.

    Dem/GOP breakdown of any group from 1971 vs today tells us practically nothing. The GOP was not always the “conservative party”. It only became reliably so during the lives of some of us here (well.. at least Land and myself).

    There remain strong conservative outposts (largely the News Corp. empire), but a detailed UCLA study found that, of the 20 leading U.S. news outlets, 18 were left of center.

    For Klotkin, it seems “strong conservative” is a synonym for GOP boosting.

    Left unaddressed: that “center”. Where is it and which way is it moving?


    Porphy's Attorney Reply:

    Yes; – well that’s where the “it’s just MM, laundered” falls apart because it remains firmly within the framework of the modern structure’s 3×5 card of analysis.

    But still we like finding acorns out there and I’ll probably employ the link among more mainstream types as a gentle intro to the concept.


    Posted on October 20th, 2014 at 4:19 pm Reply | Quote
  • Laundered | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on October 20th, 2014 at 6:43 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    Is it just possible that millions of chattering people in academia and media were noticed by others independently? Before 2007?

    Is Angelo Codevilla also ripping off Moldbug?

    But it’s good the Darkness is spreading.


    Posted on October 20th, 2014 at 8:57 pm Reply | Quote
  • John Hannon Says:

    According to the article’s penultimate paragraph, there is –

    “… a more authoritarian view among the Clerisy that democracy is too unruly, too determined by human passions and loyalties, to address the most serious issues. Former White House budget director Peter Orszag, for example, thinks we need to become ‘less democratic.’ New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, another key figure of the Clerisy, has praised the Chinese authoritarian system as better-suited to meet new challenges than is our clunky system.”

    Encouraging at all?


    admin Reply:

    China’s leaders tend to have engineering backgrounds. Ironically, they’re not typically ideologues, but are highly opportunistic about the use of propaganda. They actually align their interests with economic growth, infrastructure build-up, and social order. Rule by ‘community activists’ and their true-believer apologists is another thing entirely. When a Friedman (far from the worst of these creatures) sees the CPC he thinks: “Wow, if we had something like that we could really ram our religion down people’s throats.”


    Aeroguy Reply:

    I’ve heard that Chinese leadership is starting to replace the engineers with social scientists…


    Posted on October 20th, 2014 at 11:02 pm Reply | Quote
  • peppermint Says:

    The elevation of the Clerisy to unprecedented influence may prove this president’s most important “gift” to posterity.

    …implying that Obamaism is remotely sustainable.

    We will have change we can believe in. Thanks, Obama!


    Posted on October 21st, 2014 at 4:46 am Reply | Quote

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