The New Class ControversynThe recent successes of the American right depend, innpart, on its ability to deflect lower-middle-class resentmentnfrom the rich to a parasitic “new class” of professionalnproblem-solvers and moral relativists. In 1975, WilliamnRusher of the National Review referred to the emergence ofna “verbalist” elite, “neither businessmen nor manufacturers,nblue-collar workers or farmers,” as the “great central fact” ofnrecent American history. “The producers of America,”nRusher said, “have a common economic interest in limitingnthe growth of this rapacious new non-producing class.” Thenidea of a new class enabled the right to invoke socialnclassifications steeped in populist tradition — producers andnparasites — and to press them into the service of social andnpolitical programs directly opposed to everything populismnhad ever stood for.nIf the new class is a “muddled concept,” in the words ofnDaniel Bell, it is because we can never be sure just whatnsocial grouping it is supposed to refer to. But this imprecision,nthough it weakens the analytical value of the new classnidea, adds to its polemical value as an all-purpose term ofnpolitical abuse. Played ofi^ against the business class, itnenables the right to attack “elites” without attacking thencorporate elite. Businessmen, it appears, are responsible andnChristopher Lasch is Watson Professor of History at thenUniversity of Rochester.nby Christopher Laschnpublic-spirited; they are accountable to the consumers tonwhom they sell their products, just as practical politicians arenaccountable to the voters; and the market thus limits anynpower they can hope to exercise. The new class, on thenother hand, is accountable to no one, and its control ofnhigher educahon and the mass media give it almost unlimitednpower over the public mind. Yet the members of this classnstill feel marginal and isolated: the more power they achieve,nthe more they resent their lack of power.nAnother version of the new class plays it off^ not againstnbusiness but against the technical intelligentsia. Bell himself,nnotwithstanding his reservations, has used the notion of annew class on several occasions — not always in the samenway. In The End of Ideology, he contrasts the “intellectual”nwith the “scholar,” evidently to the advantage of the latter.nThe scholar has to assume responsibility for a “boundednfield of knowledge,” but the free-floating intellectual acknowledgesnno responsibility except to himself In ThenCultural Contradictions of Capitalism, Bell argues that thennihilistic hedonism celebrated by adversarial intellectualsnundermines the work discipline required by capitalismn(though he also argues, well beyond the limits of thenneoconservative consensus, that capitalism itself encouragesnhedonism and is thus at war with itself).nIn The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, however, then”new men” refers to the “technical and professional intelli-nnnJUNE 1990/21n