"About Equality," Commentary, November 1972.
So this, it appears to me, is what the controversy “about equality” is really about. We have an intelligentsia which so despises the ethos of bourgeois society, and which is so guilt-ridden at being implicated in the life of this society, that it is inclined to find even collective suicide preferable to the status quo. (How else can one explain the evident attraction which totalitarian regimes possess for so many of our writers and artists?) We have a “new class” of self-designated “intellectuals” who share much of this basic attitude—but who, rather than committing suicide, pursue power in the name of equality. (The children of this “new class,” however, seem divided in their yearnings for suicide via drugs, and in their lust for power via “revolution.”) And then we have the ordinary people, working-class and lower-middle-class, basically loyal to the bourgeois order but confused and apprehensive at the lack of clear meaning in this order—a lack derived from the increasing bureaucratization (and accompanying impersonalization) of political and economic life. All of these discontents tend to express themselves in terms of “equality”—which is in itself a quintessentially bourgeois ideal and slogan.