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Ichés about young people that we've lost sight of what really unites Millennials Namely We are the most educated and hard working generation in American history We poured historic and insane amounts of time and money into preparing ourselves for the 21st century labor market We have been taught to consider working for free homework internships a privilege for our own benefit We are poorer medicated and precariously employed than our parents grandparents even our great grandparents with less of a social safety net to boot Kids These Days This book seeks to get behind the stereotypes about the millennial generation to explain on the basis of research what is actually going on within the generation and what is not going on to deconstruct the popular hype about millennials Some of the prior comments on the book suggested that the author provided a fact based and rigorous approach to looking at generational issues Since I have continuing contacts with millennials in both my personal and professional life and have even been exposed to most of the stereotypes I eagerly picked up the book and looked for enlightenmentAfter finishing the book I am still looking and the song Won t get fooled again is increasingly playing in my head My three star rating is generous and likely than the book deservesI grant the central intuition of the book namely that the stereotypes about millennial slackers are wrong and that if anything millennials are too focused and competitive rather than the reverse I already knew this however and I long ago came to the realization that most if not all popular stereotypes are likely dead wrong even the ones you agree withI will try to list my issues with this well intended and readable book This list is not exhaustiveFirst the author assembles and comments on several lines of popular research in child rearing education both secondary and post secondary criminal justice and popular culture Think Malcolm Gladwell and you will get the idea The trouble with this approach is that the author may not fully appreciate the nuances of the research that heshe is reviewing and may as a result draw oversimplified conclusions even with the best intentions and care That happens from time to time with Gladwell although I still read him The alternative would be for a researcher to integrate a body of research for a broader audience such as was recently done by Kahneman in Thinking Fast and Slow Harris has a lot to say in this book but he has such a broad reach that one starts to see signs of oversimplification that was the case for the areas where I was familiar with the research and makes me wonder about the others tooSecond I do not accept the overall narrative that is used to tie the different aspects of millennial life together In effect what is presented is a critiue of post industrial capitalism that complains about the monetization of everything the transformation of most jobs and careers into low paying commodity gigs and the overall oppression and exploitation of those who end up on the wrong side of the looming economic divide between the jobs and careers that can be automated and rendered obsolete and the small number of remaining elite professions and ownership positions I am not disagreeing with the economic trends that Harris highlights I am objecting to the deconstructionist watercolors that are used to cover most issues and turn them into exploitative instances It would have been better if the author had given some indication that he had actually read serious arguments about human capital economic ineuality or technological change rather than listening to the latest podcasts and reading blurbs in front of paywalls online The details matter the arguments matter Invoking rage against the exploitative system comes across as argumentative flash powder He could have even talked about Piketty s arguments I could follow the arguments but I had to fill in too much for myself and that made me wonder what the author was actually providingThird and perhaps most importantly generational arguments seem to correlate highly with lazy thinking The idea that everyone in a birth cohort will share some characteristics is certainly defensible it is obvious The problem is to show that the shared generational characteristics add something to a consideration of the immediate issue OK so the middle part of the economy has been hollowed out leaving most low paying and insecure jobs for most people and a small number of lucrative plum situations for the elite overlords and their minions This is happening to everyone not just to millennials It has been chronicled in various forms since before the millennials were born and these trends have been terrorizing older generations too What does generation have to do with it Again I am not saying that you cannot find an effect for birth cohort in some statistical analysis The point is in showing that such effects are important for understanding anythingThere are other problems with generational arguments The first is that by construction you eliminate the need for policy prescriptions You only see generational effects after they have occurred and long after any important causal drivers can be changed Holy Cow Hegel s Owl of Minerva is back Isn t it great when you can bring up all sorts of problems and then blame the system the boomers or the capitalists for them and not have to offer any suggestions for change Harris dances around this in a concluding chapter but it is cute than informativeWith a generational argument you can also lengthen you book at will adding chapters and topics areas to taste If it happened to that generation then it is a generational issue The material on education is an example Helicopter parents the professionalizing of college preparation and the like have been around for uite some time Tiger Moms and Excellent Sheep anyone This is a problem with the book throughout I did not see an area that was not better elaborated elsewhereHarris mostly employs meta analysis of survey studies to draw his conclusions There are few cases presented to show how these trends come together in a real person The cases presented are extremes that are used to further his points Fair enough except that the danger from outliers looms very large when the population of interest is tens of millions of people It is also likely that the survey results thrown around in the book have not been well vetted to see which results are supportable and which are not Not all surveys are well done and well interpreted and popular surveys suffer from this If you don t believe me look up recent efforts at replicating pop psychological study results and how they have turned about for the original authors Given the variance that I am certain exists in this research I am left wondering how thin the ice is upon which Mr Harris is skatingMr Harris is aware of many of the issues with generational research he clearly says so at the beginning of the book But then he tosses the caveats in the trash and starts of on his meta narrative on millenials Some readers will remember what authors say in introductionsA final issue that I will mention here is how could I possibly show that the arguments presented by Harris are wrong What findings would disprove what he is arguing If there are not any that is a problem with the argument in principleI had high hopes for the book but found it disappointing Still there is enough in the book especially early on to make it an enjoyable and uick read

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Kids These Days

Is about why In brilliant crackling prose early Wall Street occupier Malcolm Harris gets mercilessly real about our maligned birth cohort Examining trends like runaway student debt the rise of the intern mass incarceration social media and Harris gives us a portrait of what it means to be young in America today that will wake you up and piss you off Millennials were the first generation raised explicitly as investments Harris argues and in Kids These Days he dares us to confront and take charge of the conseuences now that we are grown u This book is so smart so witty and so fucking dead on about everything that it could ve only been written by a millennial Here s what Harris proposes how about we look at the Millennial generation the way corporations and governments have looked at them since the beginning as human capital to be relentlessly overworked brainwashed into a hyper competitive mentality and underpaid What he finds is so much convincing and compelling that any stupid bullshit Atlantic thinkpiece about how lazy we are The facts of Harris s story weren t all new to me he discusses at length the NCAA players strike mass incarceration the inflation of college tuition endless student loan debt the destruction of our environment the over prescription of pills etc but what was totally fresh was how Harris ties all of these things to our do you mind if I use that pronoun age cohort The making of his title is literal we were fucking labrats designed to be perfect social machines capable of producing than any other previous generation I might add at any time of the day We re all sociopathic monsters and if there s truth Harris s kind of hilariously bleak conclusion where he basically says that conscious consumerism protesting volunteering and VOTING are all bullshit then we re only gonna get worseI can t remember identifying with a book so completely Every other page I had to shout out some line to my warped millennial girlfriend Every person from 20 40 must read this book And every person above that age group should read it too Though I understand that it s much easier to just make up dumb shit and talk about napkins and pretend like you re morally superior because of a historical accident that made your generation the first to love the Beatles And then subseuently turn your back on Wings because you wanted to hear serious and artful stuff like Dan Fogelberg Great job Keep murdering your children with outdated gun laws boomers You guys rule

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The first major accounting of the millennial generation written by someone who belongs to it Jia Tolentino The New YorkerThe best most comprehensive work of social and economic analysis about our benighted generation Tony Tulathimutte author of Private CitizensThe kind of brilliantly simple idea that instantly clarifies an entire area of culture William Deresiewicz author of Excellent Sheep Millennials have been stereotyped as lazy entitled narcissistic and immature We've gotten so used to sloppy generational analysis filled with dumb cl I ve never been one to blame millennials or make fun of them I interact with a lot of them as an educator and I ve been nothing but impressed They re better than my generation This book is a bleak look at what millennials have to deal with but that s not why it s relevant It s important because the book takes a macro look at the economic trends that have resulted in this generation That and the excessive policing and drugging but Harris claims that all of that stems from the exploitation of labor by capital I think he s mostly right Millennials are going to be worse off than their parents and grandparents generations because wealth ineuality has increased drastically So the few that win will win big and the rest won t However something else that is very millennial is the nihilism and pessimism of the generation They have every reason to be angry but Harris offers no hope of change at all His solution section is the most depressing part of the book neither voting or protesting or volunteering will work Millennials are being told that they are screwed no matter what they do So if this book is a Marxist criticism of capitalism there is neither opiate for the masses or workers uniting at the end Maybe because I am not a millennial but I think that s wrong There are solutions He laments the end of unions why isn t that one option He says Sanders couldn t win because they will never let him win Way too conspiratorial He also peddles in the DNC stealing elections thing I guess this is where I break from this group I was not a bernie or bust and I still believe in the system Maybe they are right and we are wrong but what are the implications that this whole generation has completely lost trust and faith in institutions Maybe they are right because institutions have let them down but it seems like the options are checking out or fascism This is an important book but I hope there are like it that are less bleak and conspiracy theory oriented


10 thoughts on “Kids These Days

  1. says:

    Lucidly thinks through the historical forces that have shaped millennials loosely defined as those born between the start of Reagan's administration and Bush II's The thesis that far from being lazy and entitled millennials are overworked underpaid and set to inherit a world on the brink of social and ecological collapse has happily entered the mainstream since the time of the book's writing and the strength of the wo

  2. says:

    I've never been one to blame millennials or make fun of them I interact with a lot of them as an educator and I've been nothing but impressed They're better than my generation This book is a bleak look at what millennials have to deal with but that's not why it's relevant It's important because the book takes a macro look at the economic trends that have resulted in this generation That and the excessive policing and drugging bu

  3. says:

    enjoyed this book but I'd have a hard time recommending it to anyone I would describe it as a series of essays about how capitalism overworks you and makes you crazy and how millennials born into our dysfunctional capitalism in decline are overworked and made crazy Harris doesn't seem to be an expert in anything other than the on the ground experience of Occupy If you want to actually dig into the dysfunctions of publ

  4. says:

    Easily the most important book yet written on the subject Any honest discussion of millennials ought to start here In which we see ourselves as the inflection point of late capitalism or western civilization in general How will capitalism end If we look to the daily habits and life prospects of the generation born since the onset on neoliberalism we start to get an answer talkin' bout my generationMom and Dad I don't bl

  5. says:

    Strong argument that IT’S NOT YOU IT’S CAPITALISM

  6. says:

    This book seeks to get behind the stereotypes about the millennial generation to explain on the basis of research what is actually going on within the generation and what is not going on to deconstruct the popular hype ab

  7. says:

    This book is so smart so witty and so fucking dead on about everything that it could've only been written by a millennial Here's what Harris proposes how about we look at the Millennial generation the way corporations and government

  8. says:

    Born 1985 Malcolm Harris it's not you it's me Well maybe it's not entirely me and maybe it's some of you Either way I was clearly not the target audience for this book I do not espouse the term late capitalism I did not stand with Occupy Wall Street I did not vote for Bernie Sanders Which means that a lot of y

  9. says:

    A well crafted argument for why Millennials don't even remotely fit the stereotypes placed on them by other generations I don't know that Millennials will learn anything new from this we're overworked over tracked high performing exhausted depressed anxious underemployed over educated financially worse off than our parents etcetcetc Even in the few years since this book's release it seems the conversation around these aspects of Millennial

  10. says:

    Bleak in both its conclusions and on the potential for escaping them Kids These Days is still very much worth a read