Bobos in Paradise

latte liberal

hipster ariel

Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There’ is a book by David Brooks, first published in 2000. The word ‘bobo,’ Brooks’s most famous coinage, is a portmanteau of the words bourgeois and bohemian.

The term is used by Brooks to describe the 1990s descendants of the yuppies. Often of the corporate upper class, they claim highly tolerant views of others, purchase expensive and exotic items, and believe American society to be meritocratic.

Brooks may have been unaware of a much earlier use of the term ‘bourgeois bohemians’ in the 1918 novel ‘Tarr’ by Wyndham Lewis. Brooks’s thesis in ‘Bobos in Paradise’ is that this ‘new upper class’ represents a marriage between the liberal idealism of the 1960s and the self-interest of the 1980s. In colloquial use bobo is often utilized in place of the word yuppie, which has acquired negative connotations. Even Brooks uses yuppie in a negative sense throughout his book.

Bobos are noted for their aversion to conspicuous consumption while emphasizing the ‘necessities’ of life. Brooks argues that they feel guilty in the way typical of the so-called ‘greed era’ of the 1980s so they prefer to spend extravagantly on kitchens, showers, and other common facilities of everyday life. They ‘feel’ for the labor and working class and often purchase American-made goods rather than less expensive imports. ”Made in the U.S.A.’ used to be a label flaunted primarily by consumers in the Rust Belt and rural regions.

Increasingly, it is a status symbol for cosmopolitan bobos, and it is being exploited by the marketers who cater to them.’ The term ‘bobo chic’ was applied to a style of fashion, similar to ‘boho chic,’ that became popular in uptown New York in 2004-5. Bobos often relate to money as a means rather than an end; they do not disdain money but use it to achieve their ends rather than considering wealth as a desirable end in itself.


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