I recently read a blog on the new elite by my friend and mentor, Seth Godin. I found it thought provoking for a couple reasons.
1. First he completely redefines what it means to be elite. He defines elite as “those people who are actively engaged in new ideas, actively seeking out change, actively engaging. Those who seek out new people and new opportunities and relish the discomfort that comes from being challenged to grow (and challenging others to do the same.)”
I always thought of the elite as those with “old money” or a lineage of privilege who are maintaining the status quo, holding onto their history and legacy. I saw those striving to be “elite” as people who are trying to be like someone else, not to be something different. One example of this phenomenon would be all those knock off bags they sell in NY, for the aspiring elites. Naomi Klein discusses this concept in her book “No Logo”. A little outdated but a good read.
2. Seth makes an argument at the beginning of his blog that many in the developing world do not have the opportunity to be “elite” in the same way that those in more developed societies do. But if you think about his new definition, I would say I have to disagree with this point of view. According to Seth’s definition, elitism is becoming democratized. Which yes I admit is a bit of an oxymoron.
As knowledge becomes more democratized, the poor are getting the opportunity to not only participate but create and spur innovation. MPESA, TEDx, Hot Sun Foundation, are just a few interesting ways innovation is happening from the bottom up. Read the recent economist on innovation in emerging markets to hear some more.
So I would ask: Who are the new elite? And will elitism be flipped upside down?