new class as a whole, the scientists and technicians as well asnthe literary intellectuals. But Gouldner too was afflicted withnnew class myopia. He had no understanding of the terriblenlimitations of “critical discourse.” The critical temper canneasily degenerate into cynicism. It can degenerate into ansnobbish disdain for people who lack formal education andnwork with their hands, an unfounded confidence in thenmoral wisdom of experts, an equally unfounded prejudicenagainst untutored common sense, a distrust of any expressionnof good intentions, a distrust of everything but science,nan ingrained irreverence, a disposition (the natural outgrowthnof irreverence and distrust) to see the world asnsomething that exists only to gratify human desires. Thenpositive and negative features of this worldly, skeptical, andncritical mentality are so closely intertwined that it is impossiblento assign them, as Daniel Bell and others have tried tondo, to sociologically distinct sectors of the new class — thengood qualities to the scientists and technicians, the bad onesnto literary intellectuals. Both the virtues and the vices of thenprofessional class spring from the habit of criticism, which,nunleavened by a sense of its own limits, soon reduces thenworld to ashes.nFor the same reason—because the enlightened virtuesncarry with them a long list of enlightened vices — it isnimpossible to refute the core of truth in the notion of a newnclass by claiming that all the evils attributed to it can benblamed on capitalist consumerism instead. Capitalism cannotnbe absolved, but neither can it be made to carry thenwhole indictment of modern culture. Capitalism was itselfnthe product, in part, of the 17th-century scientific revolution.nIts material achievements rested on the technologynmade possible by modern science. The “spirit of capitalism,”nmistakenly traced by Max Weber to the Protestantnethic, derived far more directly from the sense of unlimitednpower conferred by science — the intoxicating prospect ofnman’s conquest of the natural world. Scientific inquiry alsonserved as a model for the distinctive conception of historynassociated with the promise of universal abundance. Just asneach advance accomplished by the critical intelligence wasndestined to be superseded by the next, so the definition ofnhuman needs and wants was thought to expand as thosenneeds and wants were progressively satisfied. The insatiabilitynof curiosity and desire appeared to give the idea ofnprogress a solid foundation in psychological and historicalnobservation.nAs the heir to the critical traditions of the scientificnrevolution and the Enlightenment, the new class pins itsnhopes on the eventual triumph of critical intelligence overnsuperstition, cosmopolitanism over provincialism, man overnnature, abundance over scarcity. Its belief in progress,nchastened by 20th-century events but not yet relinquishednby any means, transcends commitment to any particularnsystem of production. We can readily agree with Gouldner’sndescription of the professional class as the “most progressivenforce in modern society”; the question is whether that cannstill be regarded as a virtue.nEven if we ignore the unattractive features of “criticalndiscourse” and consider it in the most genial light, wencannot escape the mounting evidence that calls its underlyingnpremise — the limitless possibilities generated by modernnscience and modern production — into question. Thenpromise of universal abundance has always contained egalitariannimplications without which it would have carried verynlittle moral authority. Those implications were open tonconflicting interpretations. Some people argued that it wasnenough to increase the general pool of goods and services, innthe expectation that everyone’s standard of living would risenas a result. Others demanded more radical measures designednnot merely to increase the total wealth but tondistribute it more equitably. But no one who believed innprogress conceived of a limit on productive capacity as anwhole. No one envisioned a return to a more frugalnexistence; such views fell outside the progressive consensus.nThe belated discovery that the earth’s ecology will nonlonger sustain an indefinite expansion of productive forcesndeals the final blow to the belief in progress. A morenequitable distribution of wealth, it is now clear, requires atnthe same time a drastic reduction in the standard of livingnenjoyed by the rich nations and the privileged classes.nWestern nations can no longer hold up their standard ofnliving and the enlightened, critical, and progressive culturenthat is entangled with it as an example for the rest of thenworld. Nor can the privileged classes within the West—andnthese include the professional class as well as the verynrich — expect to solve the problem of poverty by takingneveryone into their own ranks. Even if this were a morallyndesirable solution, it is no longer feasible, since the resourcesnrequired to sustain a new class style of life, hitherto imaginednto be inexhaustible, are already approaching their outernlimit. Under these conditions, the universalistic pretensionsnof the new class have to be rejected. They are not onlynimplausible but morally offensive, not only because theynembody a very narrow ideal of the good life, but because thenmaterial prerequisites for this form of the good life cannot benmade universally available. <^nJournal of the Plague Yearnby Frederick FeirsteinnAt other times, a small domestic scene —nThe aftermath of dinner in our country house:nMy son cuddling my wife in a religious haze;nThe table between us strewn with steak,nHalf-drunk glasses of burgundy, a china bowlnFlecked with corn, its Vermeer spoonnReflecting light from a Revere chandelier.nMeandering I sketch this in wordsn— Like an Impressionist.nSlowly our precious apparent Easter eggnDaylight purples, then succumbs to black.nAnd the cracked, primordial universe reveals itselfnStill, back in the kitchen. The Jefferson StarshipnLustily sing “Homeward Bound” on the radionAnd a trinity of deer tiptoenThrough my apple orchard.nThey watch me in my artificial light.nConfident I will let them eat their fill.nnn)UNE 1990/25n