In Bobos in Paradise, David Brooks spends a great deal of time explaining who "bobos" are and examining their idiosyncrasies and excesses. "Bobo" is a portmanteau word, originally French, combining "bourgeois" and "bohemian." These two groups have hitherto appeared to be separate and opposed. The bourgeois establishment of conservative lawyers, bankers, and executives was quite different from the bohemian counterculture of left-wing artists, musicians and poets. However, Brooks says that when he returned to the United States after a few years abroad in the 1990s, he could no longer tell the difference between the artist and the banker as they sipped artisan coffee side by side in fashionable cafes. The members of the new elite shared similar educations and similar views. They were far more left-leaning and progressive than former elites, since they all worked in an economy where knowledge and creativity were paramount. They were also more meritocratic, depending on academic and creative achievement rather than hereditary privilege for their positions.
Brooks called his book Bobos in Paradise since he describes not only the bobos but the world they have shaped for themselves which, quite reasonably, is the environment in which they feel most at home: a faux-countercultural or replica-rustic paradise. The use of the word "paradise" is mildly ironic, as Brooks satirizes the shallowness and selfishness of the bobos' world, showing the absurdity of the rich playing at being rebels. The satire, however, is fairly mild, as Brooks sees the admirable aspects of bobo culture and the ways in which they are superior to the WASP and yuppie cultures they have replaced.