Conservatives today bemoan the fact that men no longer behave as gentlemen. Yet their exhortations on the topic are without effect.
E. Digby Baltzell’s writings on the American upper class shed light on this decline of the gentleman. He notes that an upper class establishment, as American had until the 1960s, made the social, moral, and behavioral codes of the upper class normative, or at least aspirational for society at large. The end of the establishment meant that those standards also went out the window.
It’s also the case that the gentleman’s code as we understand it was a product of the Anglo-American upper class and especially the Victorian era. It was not universal. This period had organic social hierarchy, patriarchal families, and significant restrictions on female behavior, all of which those who argue men should behave like the gentlemen of that era reject.
The largely Boomer social conservatives bleating about being a gentleman should be ignored. Instead, we as men should start thinking about the social norms that we want to have in our groups in the 21st century.
American Affairs: Rediscovering E. Digby Baltzell’s Sociology of Elites