Bobos in Paradise by David Brooks

General Director of Intercomp Ilya Panteleev recommends Bobos in Paradise by David Brooks as one of the best popular social psychology books he has read lately.


This book describes how the U.S. elite changes and is also very useful to understand how new elites are formed in Russia and their consumer preferences.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has either a professional or a personal interest in social psychology, anyone who considers the development trends in society as the interaction and mixing of different cultures. Professionally, this book should be of interest to people “who work with the market” as Bobos constitute an earning and spending class that shapes the consumption trends of many social groups.

This book was penned in a simple language and humoristically. David Brooks describes the development of the psychology and behavior standards of the upper middle class in the U.S., which the author calls Bohemian Bourgeois or Bobo. This social layer has developed over the past 30-40 years by mixing seemingly incompatible social characteristics of the classical, stiff American aristocracy (for those who watched David Fincher’s film The Social Network, the twins Cameron and Tyler are a good example of this social layer) and the rebellious protest psychology of hippies and bohemians. As a result, successful graduates of prestigious universities such as, for example, Harvard have now become the leading American class with a great focus on self-fulfillment, inner freedom, with a strong desire to stand out without being excessively garish and loud (red Prada bags are not their style) as if it were absolutely natural. “Today's bobo-elite considers that it is better to get rich by chance. Earning money is simply a by-product of artistic fulfillment…”

Bobos live in small towns associated with the largest software developers. Bobos are the main consumers of expensive, high-quality and especially subdued clothing made of high-tech materials. Bobos wear casual shoes in which it is possible to climb Everest painlessly. Bobos are the main consumers of healthy food, and their food preferences give rise to entire industries for its production and sale. The best mountaineering boots and icepicks are sold only in their neighborhood, giving the impression that the ice-cap will be there first thing tomorrow. Bobos are also the ones who buy big SUVs because the probability of off-road conditions cannot be excluded. Bobo consumption usually obeys the following rules:

Rule 1. It is bad taste to spend large amounts on luxuries. Educated people limit large purchases to basic necessities...

Rule 2. Any expenditure is justified for the purchase of professional items even if they have nothing to do with your profession

And also, maturity and the ability to assess longevity and quality should be demonstrated while purchasing personal items. You should also show that you are not that rich that you cannot buy cheap things.

“Bobos have a clear conscience when their furniture (jeans) are stained!”

It is worth considering separately Bobos’ attitude to leisure as here, naturally, time cannot be wasted. “The rule of useful leisure states that a vacation must be evaluated by its results, i.e. what has been learned, what spiritual and emotional discoveries have been made, what unforgettable sensations have been experienced. It was, of course, Bobos who created a demand for ecotourism, trekking up arduous Himalayan peaks and rafting along the Amazon River.”

These people are also very much into inner development, and they also constantly compare themselves with unattainable perfection. The persons described in the book are recognizable, and it is worth noting that Bobos are in their own way very nice.

Reading this book helps better understand the possible development trends for social communities in the world and in Russia.