Americans apparently have a troubling relationship with the word ‘bourgeois’
It is the opposite of how the Chinese see the word, and with a cultural twist
Long used in Communist diatribes against the corrupt and decadent exploiters of decent working folk, the word “bourgeois”, has managed to become controversial in the US in the most convoluted of ways.
Two law professors have been accused of “hate speech” by advocating for “bourgeois” values and behavior in an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The authors, Amy Wax and Larry Alexander, are essentially using the word as a place holder for the “Protestant work ethic”, which they argue has been eroded since the 1960’s. The definition is in stark contrast to typical Chinese uses such as “decadent bourgeois society” or “decadent bourgeois country” (America).
Indeed, Wax and Alexander’s use of the word is imprecise to the extent they are making an argument about culture (the value of Anglo-Protestant work ethic), but it is valid to the extent they are making a critique of the embrace of emulating lower class behavior, an influence that they say is helping to corrupt American society.
In China, to the contrary, the government and its absolute control of media promotes “socialist core values” in implicit contrast to decadent “bourgeois” society. Those socialist core values? Well Wax and Alexander sum them up perfectly in their description of “bourgeois” ones:
Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.
The Chinese Communist Party would be happy to translate those and publish them as a guide to being a good socialist.
The problem for America? To the extent those values and behaviors are attributed to a specific cultural heritage their promotion will be derided by the left, which has a virtually absolute control of academia, thus perpetuating the veneration of their opposite. America’s leftwing knee-jerk reaction to any comparison of cultures is effectively creating a slow “cultural evolution”, with wide-ranging affects, as Heather MacDonald writes for the the National Review:
Today, the consequences of that cultural revolution are all around us: lagging education levels, the lowest male work-force participation rate since the Great Depression, opioid abuse, and high illegitimacy rates. Wax and Alexander catalogue the self-defeating behaviors that leave too many Americans idle, addicted, or in prison: “the single-parent, antisocial habits, prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-‘acting white’ rap culture of inner-city blacks; the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants.”