Arnold Kling  

The Bourgeoisie and the Clerisy

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In an interview, Freeman Dyson says,


In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status. As a child of the academic middle class, I learned to look on the commercial middle class with loathing and contempt. Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher, which was also the revenge of the commercial middle class. The academics lost their power and prestige and the business people took over. The academics never forgave Thatcher and have been gloomy ever since.

In The Bourgeois Virtues, Deirdre McCloskey refers to the merchant class as the bourgeoisie and the academic class as the clerisy. She, too, delves into the conflict between the two classes, which exists in the United States as well as in England.

This post by Greg Mankiw hints that perhaps at Harvard the economics department finds itself on the wrong end of this class struggle.


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COMMENTS (2 to date)
Michael writes:

I believe "clerisy" was first mentioned by Coleridge who wrote about the intellectual elite would be responsible to distribute culture throughout the (English) nation. Coleridge called this proposed tax supported institution the "National Church." This was a common theme during the Victorian era about how some viewed the new commerical class and expansion of democracy as lowering the overall culture. These propoents of the clerisy believed themselves a cultural remname countering the two dominant philsophies of the era: Utilitarianiam and Evangelicism which both for their own reason downplayed art and culture.

Barkley Rosser writes:

The Harvard econ dept is in bad graces because of the failed presidency of Larry Summers and his corruption vis a vis Andrei Shleifer, also from the dept.

It is an old saw that the class origins of the 20th century economists in Britain was the clergy of the previous centuries.

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