Why David Brooks Gets the Meaning of Life Wrong

I am not a member of the Composure Class, journalist David Brooks’s term for young achievers with perfect hair and teeth. An example of the type meets his mate, writes Brooks, “at the Clinton Global Initiative, where they happened to be wearing the same Doctors Without Borders support bracelets.”

I am far closer to the "bourgeois bohemians" skewered in his 2000 book Bobos in Paradise. I’ll even confess that I found his earlier take on my Restoration-Hardware-grooving peers entertaining.

It was shallow, of course. But shallow is the least of the problems with “Social Animal,” Brooks’s latest article in the New Yorker and an excerpt from his soon-to-be-published book of the same name.

In a "live chat" with readers in a New Yorker blog this week, Brooks called himself a “comic sociologist.” Yet “Social Animal” is so at odds with itself that I found myself gaping in pained awe at its conflation of society, culture, and evolutionary psychology. It’s all swirled into a weird confection told from the perspective of “I’ll call him Harold” and “let’s call her Erica,” two fictional members of the Composure Class.

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