Life at the Top: The Worldview That Makes the Elites

Last May, Dalrymple gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC. We linked to it at that time but only as part of a mass post with links to many of his recent essays. We’ve been asked to post the speech individually and are quite happy to do so, as I fear many people probably did not see it the first time.


Dalrymple’s readers know that his work has attempted to shine a light on the worldview of those at the bottom of society and to explain how much modern social pathology results from an embrace of the ideas of those at the top. In this speech he was asked to explain the latter group: what the elite believe and why. The title is thus a reference to his most well-known work, Life at the Bottom.

As one of many examples of elite opinion, Dalrymple cites a public debate he had with a “well-known left-liberal journalist” on “the social, psychological, and cultural effects of the welfare state”:

Now, if the success of [Jewish and Sikh] immigrant groups in a tolerably open society… was not the result of a sinister conspiracy, what they had done could, in principle, be done by anyone else. What prevented them from going ahead and doing it?

It was my contention that it was the “mind-forg’d manacles,” among which manacles were the very ideas peddled so assiduously during her career by this very journalist: namely, that without the assistance of government bureaucracies paid for by taxation they could do nothing to improve their lot, an attitude that was bound to foster resentful passivity—resentful because no assistance can ever be enough for a passive person.

What my opponent wanted to deny was that there were any such things as mind-forg’d manacles; and the reason that she wanted to deny their existence, I suggest, is that to have done otherwise, to have admitted their existence, would have been to destroy her worldview completely, according to which only social injustice to be righted by state action (as suggested by her) would have redeemed the very many people in our society who are undoubtedly sunk in a wretched and pitiful condition. To have admitted their existence would not only have been to deny her the role of Salvationist to the masses, but suggested to her that her career had been dedicated to ensuring that the manacles were never struck off but rather strengthened and reinforced.

Thank you to the Heritage Foundation for hosting the speech and for reminding us that we never gave it the proper attention it deserves.

You can find the text of the speech here.

2 thoughts on “Life at the Top: The Worldview That Makes the Elites

  1. Jaxon

    Interesting, as usual.
    I think of Peter Hitchens’ book Drugs – The war we never fought.
    I may have some of the details wrong but roughly at one point he discusses how a university lecturer (London, I think) and his “partner” go out, leaving their teenage daughter at home where there is a party going on.
    The daughter goes into her father’s bedroom in search of some goodies. She finds some drugs, ecstasy, I think. Tragically she dies from using them.

    The father was devastated, apparently at one point in court he rather pathetically said of himself “I’m just an old hippy” and some time later he attempted suicide by throwing himself from a motorway overpass; he sustained serious injuries.
    Hitchens said something about how he deserves our pity and in keeping with Christian charity, I suppose, and writing as a father himself, he appears to give him the benefit of the doubt that a genuinely deep sense of grief was behind his despair. However, whilst I do believe a sense of pity is right and proper, I feel somewhat harder hearted about the matter.

    Significant grief I don’t doubt, but I suspect a very considerable part of his despair was the result of a full recognition of just how pernicious is the left liberal view that he personally indulged and perpetuated; the greater consequences of which were usually confined to the underclasses, the ‘life’ at the bottom.


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