What is the culturally liberal elite

Carlo Strenger"Those damn liberal elites"

The liberal elites do not have a good reputation. The title of Carlo Strenger's book already reveals that. He scolds them for "damned liberal elites" and thus conveys the perspective of their numerous critics.

"The common stereotype about the liberal cosmopolitan women is that they are selfish profiteers of globalization who wallow in complacency about their level of education, their sophisticated tastes and their professional success."

In the preface, the psychologist and philosopher makes it clear that he wants to contrast this with a more benevolent portrait of this social group. A group to which he also counts himself. The global jet setters that Carlo Strenger describes belong to the upper middle class:

"They almost always have a university degree, are overrepresented in the media, in the art scene and in academia, and make up that group of opinion leaders whose views are particularly authoritative because of their education or their profession."

Not all elites are the same

In modern societies they make up around twenty to thirty percent of the population, writes Carlo Strenger. He creates your psychogram on around one hundred and seventy pages. His book is divided into three main chapters. In the first and third chapters in particular, he makes use of empirical findings from economics, political science and sociology:

"Empirical studies [...] show that the overwhelming majority of members of this group hold liberal and universalist views; that they despise bigotry, racism and provinciality and try to escape them; that they are more concerned about humanity than about it their immediate neighbors or their compatriots. And that they are extremely mobile: their talents are in high demand all over the world, they are drawn to those countries and cities that suit their refined tastes and their liberal temperament. "

Your lifestyle may be somewhat reminiscent of that of representatives of the global financial elite. Carlo Strenger emphasizes that their value system is completely different:

"Studies show that the majority of them have considerable compassion for the fate of the poorer classes, harbor deeply entrenched social democratic views, and advocate tax progression and top-down redistribution."

It is not the pursuit of wealth that drives them, but the desire to achieve something meaningful. The maxim they live by is:

"Live spectacularly and change the world!"

Despite this philanthropy, the cosmopolitans from the media, research or high-tech industry are perceived by many sections of the population as "decoupled elites" or "narcissistic pangs." A paradox for Strictly. The liberal elite no longer understand the world.

Higher but isolated

Some of their representatives suffer from depression and look for orientation on Carlo Strenger's couch. This is what the second and longest chapter of the book tells about. Carlo Strenger describes five case studies from his psychotherapeutic practice. He does not introduce real people, but composes typical cases from different individual fates. For example, there is Jeff, a political scientist who is in great demand all over the world. He thinks he is a con man and suffers from loneliness.

"Jeff was the youngest of four siblings, and it quickly became apparent that he was far smarter than his older brothers and sister. He spent a lot of time overseas, soon receiving one of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships and studying abroad in Oxford. The rest of the family were intimidated by the brilliant son and brother. When he came to a family celebration in their small town, they felt as if he came from another world. "

Citizens of the world versus patriots attached to their homeland - "Anywheres" versus "Somewheres" - a typical conflict with a thoroughly political dimension. Carlo Strenger takes up this at the end of his book. His diagnosis: The liberal elites have made many mistakes in the past. They would have even involuntarily promoted the illiberal backlash that has recently been slapping them icily in the face. For example, you would have underestimated how important group membership and cultural roots are to many people.

Addressing irrationality and lies

The most fatal mistake that Carlo Strenger attests to the liberal elite is not to have taken those who think differently seriously:

"We have all treated people who cannot understand and / or do not share our views from above and labeled them as stupid, limited or provincial."

Carlo Strenger recommends adopting a different tone so that the testators of the open society, as he sees the liberal elite, can get through with their message at all. And: to strike this different note somewhere else than you might be used to:

"We have to learn to address a broad audience and to tackle the irrationality and lies of political charlatans like Trump head-on. Liberal cosmopolitan women, whether academics, journalists or artists, have to step out of the ivory tower of universities, studios and quality media and take the risk of themselves to mess with the populists on social media and television to expose their falsehoods where they are most widespread. "

Carlo Strenger also sees schools and universities as having an obligation to train established citizens who can argue politically. A recipe that culminated in his last book on the "Adventure of Freedom". So old wine in new bottles. All in all, "Those Damn Liberal Elites" is targeting a new audience by title only. In fact, the book does not go beyond the goal of helping the liberal elites in good therapeutic tradition to better understand themselves. But a lot has been achieved with that. Because to close the gap between the cosmopolitan and the homely with one swipe would simply be asking too much.

Carlo Strenger: "These damned liberal elites. Who they are and why we need them",
Suhrkamp Verlag, 171 pages, 16 euros.