In Unfair Harvard, Slate’s Stephen Metcalf disses the “gripes” of Ross Douthat, author of Privilege, who condemns “the privilege that comes with belonging to an upper class grown large enough to fancy itself diverse; fluid and competitive enough to believe itself meritocratic; smart enough for intellectual snobbery but not for intellectual curiosity.”
In the end, Privilege is more a symptom than a diagnosis. The wound-up, overachieving children of the wound-up, overachieving professional elites find themselves ensnared in a paradox: the more intense the competition for social rewards, the more advantages their parents feel compelled to confer on them, and at earlier and earlier ages. Even as these children compete harder to achieve more, they may suspect they are less and less deserving. This is a recipe for neurosis, in which a style of condescension appropriate to the old Protestant upper crust mingles nonsensically with the gaping insecurity of the striving middle classes. And this is precisely the voice in which Privilege has been written.
Disillusioned Ivy Leaguers are good at getting into print.