Joel Kotkin is a senior fellow with the Davenport Institute for Public Policy at Pepperdine University, a research fellow in urban studies at the Reason Public Policy Institute, and a senior fellow with the Milken Institute. He writes a monthly column, ""Grass Roots Business,"" in the
Sunday New York Times Money & Business section, and is a contributing editor to the
Los Angeles Times Opinion section as well as a columnist for the
Los Angeles Business Journal. An active participant in the new economy, he is director of content for Prime Ventures, a high-tech venture-capital firm specializing in new-media and technology ventures. He has written four previous books, including
Tribes. He lives in North Hollywood, California."
Following a remarkable epoch of greater dispersion of wealth and opportunity, we are inexorably returning towards a more feudal era marked by greater concentration of wealth and property, reduced upward mobility, demographic stagnation, and increased dogmatism. If the last seventy years saw a massive expansion of the middle class, not only in America but in much of the developed world, today that class is declining and a new, more hierarchical society is emerging. The new class structure resembles that of Medieval times. At the apex of the new order are two classes-a reborn clerical elite, the clerisy, which dominates the upper part of the professional ranks, universities, media and culture, and a new aristocracy led by tech oligarchs with unprecedented wealth and growing control of information. These two classes correspond to the old French First and Second Estates. Below these two classes lies what was once called the Third Estate. This includes the yeomanry, which is made up largely of small businesspeople, minor property owners, skilled workers and private-sector oriented professionals. Ascendant for much of modern history, this class is in decline while those below them, the new Serfs, grow in numbers-a vast, expanding property-less population. The trends are mounting, but we can still reverse them-if people understand what is actually occurring and have the capability to oppose them.
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