I read Austin’s write-up and then went ahead and read Brooks’ piece. It’s a very odd essay, structurally speaking. He does in fact spend the first half of the piece outlining structural issues, albeit in an obnoxiously smug way. Then this paragraph hits:
“I was braced by Reeves’s book, but after speaking with him a few times about it, I’ve come to think the structural barriers he emphasizes are less important than the informal social barriers that segregate the lower 80 percent.”
Yo what? Why even talk about structural issues if you were just planning to dismiss them. This isn’t even a convincing dismissal! The whole essay is at odds with itself. It feels like Brooks was anticipating responses to his essay raising concerns about structural issues so built hand-waving those concerns away into the fabric of the essay, but it’s still hand-waving!
Also, Austin didn’t talk about this, but there are a lot of stray lines in the essay conflating topics like maternity leave and intersectionally with cultural elitism. This paragraph really ground my gears:
“To feel at home in opportunity-rich areas, you’ve got to understand the right barre techniques, sport the right baby carrier, have the right podcast, food truck, tea, wine and Pilates tastes, not to mention possess the right attitudes about David Foster Wallace, child-rearing, gender norms and intersectionality.”
Brooks clearly can’t help himself from implying that it’s a left-wing elite that’s ruining America and causing social inequality, but doesn’t have the guts to say it outright. Yeah ok, sure buddy, that’s productive. What a puke.