Stephen Schryer


On his book Fantasies of the New Class: Ideologies of Professionalism in Post-World War II U.S. Fiction

Cover Interview of May 09, 2011


I finished writing this book six months into the presidency of former law professor Barack Obama.  For me, Obama represented a possible resurgence of the ideal of public-minded expertise—especially after the right-wing populism of George W. Bush.  For the first time since Bush’s election, it seemed like a majority of Americans were growing to distrust the notion that gut instinct or patriotic feeling was enough to guide foreign and domestic policy decisions.

The subsequent rise of the Tea Party movement highlights many Americans’ ongoing suspicion of the welfare state and of anything but the most narrow interpretation of professionals’ social function.

In the face of this suspicion, my hope is that Fantasies of the New Class will help readers—especially readers in the academic humanities—get a clearer sense of the possibilities and limitations of cultural politics as traditionally practiced by literary intellectuals.

For too long, writers and literary critics have cultivated an inflated view of themselves as offering an anti-instrumental antidote to the rationalism of U.S. society, a position that has often led them to embrace an anti-statist politics.  My sense is that this is a dead end for liberal and left-wing politics.  Social democracy in the United States—which impacts the ongoing survival of all first-world welfare states—instead depends on the existence of a pragmatic, socially-conscious professional class.

© 2011 Stephen Schryer