The Winder: Blowing the Bobo Aside
billymurr | October 11, 2010 at 05:04 amby
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The modern socially successful individual of the 2000s can take several forms, two of the most prominent of which are the “bobo” and the “winder”. But what is the difference between them, and why are they important?
Socially successful individuals have been the subject of sociological analysis since time immemorial. From the 18th century image of the bourgeois to the materialistic yuppie (or young urban professional) of the 1980, sociologists have sought to define and categorize the successful.
In the 2000s, or “naughties”, two new classes have emerged, each a social success in its own right, but at the same time each one radically different in the behavior that accompanies this success. One is the “bobo”, or the bourgeois bohemian; the other is the “winder”, derived from “soft-” or “windy-winner”. But what kinds of people do these terms refer to?
According to American social commentator David Brooks, the bobo is the natural successor to, or descendent of, the yuppie of the 1980s, with one key adaptation: the bobo does not participate in excessive conspicuous consumption. Whereas the yuppie might have splashed out (comparatively) large amounts on luxury cars or yachts, the bobo is more likely to put his or her money towards what are seen as necessities, such as kitchens or showers. This spending is nevertheless extravagant, but the fact it is focused on the facilities of day-to-day life means the bobo sees himself as less greedy than his yuppie forefathers.
Brooks sees the bobos as a result of the combination of the yuppie culture of the 1980s and the liberal idealist theories of the 1960s. However, despite being, or at least seeing themselves as less greedy than the yuppies, the image of the bobo is not free from negative connotations. They are often seen as being overly image-conscious (think of the phrase “bobo-chic”, common in modern parlance), and also come almost exclusively from the corporate upper class elite of society.
The winder, on the other hand, is something of a different animal. Whilst still socially successful and likely with a rewarding and lucrative career to boot, he is much less attached to material objects than the bobo. Furthermore the winder doesn’t take himself as seriously as the bobo in terms of his lifestyle choices, refusing to pigeonhole himself within a single genre of consumption: the winder is a “multi-consumer”. And finally the winder is much more aware of the ethical and environmental implications of his consumption, whereas the bobo is likely to just exhibit such concerns purely to maintain a targeted persona.
Greek mythology can provide a useful analogy illustrating the contrast between the bobo and the winder. The bobo could be seen as Greek deity Asia, the goddess of fame and renown, reflecting the bobo’s constant obsession with the lives of the celebrities he idolizes and also how outsiders perceive him. The winder, however, could be most likened to Themis, the Greek Titan of law, order and good counsel, reflecting the winder’s reasoned, pragmatic and logical approach to life and consumption.
Using Thompson & Hickey’s five-class model of social class, a model based on education, occupation type and income, the bobo would likely largely come from the upper middle class, representing 15% of society, consisting of white collar professionals such as physicians, lawyers and corporate executives, and often earning in excess of $100,000 p.a. Interestingly Brooks dubbed the bobos the “new upper class”. However, the winder would likely constitute a broader social base. Whilst some winders would still come from this upper middle class, still more would come from the lower middle class, constituting around 33% of society, consisting of bachelor’s degree graduates in white collar jobs but with less authority than the upper middle class, often earning between $30,000 and $75,000 p.a. This broader social base of the winder’s makeup gives him more of an “everyman” status, giving him less snobbish connotations than the more elite bobo.
The work of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu on class distinction is also useful for comparing the bobo and the winder. According to Bourdieu, each social class, or fraction in his terminology, develops its own aesthetic criteria, its “own artists and philosophers, newspapers and critics”, and social distinction is most obvious in the everyday lifestyle and consumption choices that people make. If we take our aforementioned supposition from Thompson & Hickey’s social class theory, that winders are made up from a broader social base than bobos, a step further, then it would logically follow that in Bourdieu’s world the winder would also have a much broader range of aesthetic criteria. Winders would constitute a more open-minded, eclectic group of “multi-consumers” than the more elitist, “set-in-their-ways” bobos.8
From a political perspective, the bobos, according to Brooks, claim to be highly tolerant of other social classes, and in particular feel something akin to sympathy for the laboring and working class. However, as virtually no bobos are likely to originate from this working class, the fact that they claim to support the rights of this fraction of society can attract the depreciatory term “liberal elite” from cynics. The winder, however, is slightly different. According to John Leigh’s “Moving towards new forms of social success”, the winder is much more “liberated from political correctness and ideological dogmas than his predecessors”, meaning he is more likely to base his political opinions on sound reasoning and judgment, rather than just following his peers’ political leanings like Brooks’ bobos.
With his attachment to material objects (albeit on “necessities”), obsession with image, and detachment from other social classes, the bobo could turn out to be an endangered species (the demise of his predecessor the yuppie could be a significant omen). Free from this attachment to material objects, with a more eclectic taste and made up of a broader social base, the winder may blow him away and take his place.
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