Chua and Rubenfeld have decided to write about why some groups in America do better than others:
"That certain groups do much better in America than others — as measured by income, occupational status, test scores and so on — is difficult to talk about"So which groups do they identify as doing best? They list eight:
Note that the only white Americans included in the list are the Mormons, who aren't part of the core white liberal population.
Chua is correct that Asian Americans do better on average than white Americans - I noted that myself back in 2008.
It is significant that mainstream whites are being left off the advantaged list. For decades, white liberals have attacked their fellow whites as being privileged. Here, though, we have a Chinese American and a Jewish American identifying most whites as being part of a losing group when it comes to seeking high position in American society.
There's something else of significance to consider. Although white liberals like to see themselves as being anti-establishment, at the same time they like to see liberalism itself as an elite ideology - as something that confers status and prestige.
But Rubenfeld and Chua take the opposite view. They see liberalism as a losing ideology - as something best avoided if you want success:
in modern America, a group has an edge if it doesn’t buy into — or hasn’t yet bought into — mainstream, post-1960s, liberal American principles.'
So what does confer success according to Rubenfeld and Chua? They believe there is a triple package which drives people onward. The first is having a sense that the group you belong to is superior to others; the second is a feeling of personal insecurity; the third is impulse control.
I don't think Chua gets it entirely right here. I do think it helps if you have a sense that you belong to a high achieving group. I can remember as a boy in the 1970s the positive sense that Anglo-Australian men had of themselves as being masculine high achievers, particularly when it came to the roles of pioneers, soldiers and sportsmen. I don't remember the focus of this being a feeling of superiority over others, though. It was a positive self-focus, rather than being a superiority complex.
Nor were Australian men insecure. I think Chua focuses on this because she believes that therapeutic parenting styles, in which children are forever positively reinforced, leads to low achievement. She prefers the tiger mom style in which children are held to difficult standards of achievement.
By impulse control Chua and Rubenfeld apparently mean the ability to resist the impulse to give up.
I don't think that Chua and Rubenfelds' book, by itself, will discourage white liberals. It's likely that white liberals will respond by thinking that without liberalism you get dangerous claims of superiority, chauvinism etc.
However, the book does point to a different political scenario than the one we've had over the past 50 years. It's a scenario in which new ethnic elites confidently assert their success in terms of their own values, self-consciously rejecting the liberal values of the older, declining elites.
It's one way that liberalism might begin to lose prestige as an elite ideology.