Economics/Class Relations

The Serfs of Silicon Valley

By John M. Dejak, Chronicles

In the summer of 2003 my bride, our three little kids, and I headed to Chicago for that all-important summer job after my second year of law school. We acquired a “summer lease” for an apartment on North Orchard Street in the highly sought-after neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

As I whiled away the hours reading civil procedure in a downtown office, my wife would walk the kids down the tree-lined streets—two in a stroller, one walking alongside her—to the various parks in the neighborhood. This raised eyebrows from residents and onlookers in this trendy part of town. The neighborhood demographics consisted of recent college grads, young professionals, an increasing gay population, and the wealthy—whose children were cared for by others. Nearly all our neighbors were homogenous in their political liberalism.

Needless to say, the near ubiquity of the question “are these all yours?” to a young mom walking down the street with her children in Lincoln Park demonstrated that neighborhood’s transformation. While there was no outright disdain, people were incredulous at our having three children all under the age of five.

This vignette illustrates several aspects of a new reality that has been developing in America over a number of decades, one which Joel Kotkin discusses in his book The Coming of Neo-Feudalism. Kotkin, an accomplished scholar and author, says he is attempting to find out what is creating across the world “a more hierarchical and more stagnant society,” which he calls “neo-feudalism.”


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