We have seen the future, and it sucks.

The IKEA Humans: The Social Base of Contemporary Liberalism

13th September 2017

Read it.

A century and a half later, the satire in Our Mutual Friend may seem quaint. Today, an ambitious, upwardly mobile young couple in London, Brooklyn, or Seattle (the rough equivalents of the Veneerings) are unlikely to host large dinner parties, their networking taking place on corporate-owned social media or in cramped urban apartments and bars; staffs of servants are a preserve of the truly rich. In addition, our young couple are unlikely to own a single furnishing even with a cherrywood veneer, much less a solid piece of hardwood — hence the joke of the Veneerings’ name has lost its bite.

On the other hand, the Veneerings’ thinly-veiled manipulation and social climbing today seems so ordinary that it is hard to imagine why Dickens expected his readers to find the young Londoners repugnant. They merely knew, it may seem to many readers today, “how to play the game.” The Veneerings represent a social class — the professional and investing class that arose from Britain’s rising industrial and imperial wealth and that provided the bedrock of the Liberal Party. That class has not disappeared, but has grown and evolved into the white-collar professional and managerial elite that sets the general tone of political and intellectual life in the West.

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