Malcolm Harris writes for The New Inquiry, one of those websites that I’m always afraid will be gone when I go to access it, and he’s both a millenial and a communist. That combination is rare enough in my experience, but Harris is a survivor who has written an incredibly smart and pretty thoroughly researched look at millenials in relationship to their relationships with capital. Notes follow:
- He does not apologize for millenials at all – instead, he runs through all the ridiculousness that they’ve been put through as a generation. He sees lots of what older folks accuse millenials of doing as solid strategies rather than lazy attempts to ditch responsibility, and his relentless placement of millenials in the socioeconomic world that they have inhabited, late capitalism or whatever you want to call it, helps put together in my head a lot of the frustration I see directed their way from those of us who our older.
- I wish I saw as much resistance as he posits, but I also work at a place where folks are about as economically insecure as they can be, and my guess is that the sort of analysis that Harris is doing is way beyond their own comfort zones both in terms of intellectual preparation and in asking them to put themselves even more at risk.
- He also does not glorify the Boomers and either the changes they think they made or the economic changes that happened on their watch. Instead, he puts forth evidence that perhaps they have benefited from some historical anomalies that have made their lives easier (and the results that fit neatly into progressive narratives) than they would other have been, and that have made the changes they have helped bring about (Social Security, etc.) less permanent than boomers would have the rest of us believe.
- He mentions Twenge several times, and while he disagrees with her in some ways, he does acknowledge the power of the research she has done. Her book is next on my list, and I’m looking forward to it.
- I’ve on more than one occasion talked at meetings of employers (when I’m hunting internships for the folks I work with) about the myths that have arisen about this generation. One of the causative conditions that I think my generation and the one before struggle with in understanding millenials is the constant testing they are under. It’s difficult for us to understand these things – we didn’t have to undergo them. Harris extends my sort of not-well-thought-out consequences of this testing, as he notes that kids these days are essentially hammered at about being prepared for their careers from the time they’re five. That’s insane, but also true…
- Harris does not try to make this a happy story. He very clearly (and sort of cavalierly) brushes aside the need to finish a book like this with some sort of motivational TED talk that will inspire people to rise against the machine; he’s pretty convinced, I think, that we are sort of screwed, even if occasional resistance rises in the form of Occupy, etc.
- I hope he’s not right, and for crissakes go read The New Inquiry, now…