New York Times contributor Chamberlain provocatively posits that people “born in the mid-1960s through the ’70s” are no slackers but pioneering innovators who will solve the economic crises endemic to capitalism.
Her gushing, anecdotal “portrait of a generation” aims to reverse the popular notion of a directionless Generation X condemned to “Option Paralysis.” Expanding on her 2004 article in the New York Observer, the author argues that repeated economic downturns such as the dotcom meltdown and the 1990s recession, together with rapidly advancing technology and the Internet, have forced Xers to become “practical risk-takers.” They have creatively reinterpreted their lives, she asserts. They reject corporate jobs to become entrepreneurs and choose to live in urban spaces with communal areas. They delay marriage and rely on friends and social networks; they seek flexible gender roles and become single parents. In rambling chapters with tongue-in-cheek titles (e.g., “Funny Weird or Funny Ha-Ha?…Hey, Why Limit Yourself?”), Chamberlain juxtaposes pop-culture critiques with profiles of various Gen Xers. Jen Bekman, who transformed herself from a struggling website developer into an art-gallery owner, is the subject of one of the more interesting portraits, but Chamberlain selectively emphasizes Xers of middle-class, suburban origin, several of whom are freelance writers like the author. Her economic theorizing is unconvincing. Capitalism is constantly in a state of tumult and renewal, she argues; the current state of “supercapitalism” (“mind-boggling income inequality, global warming”) can be best addressed by the creativity of Xers. “I’m not an economist (not even a ‘rogue’ one),” the author admits, and that can be seen in her tendency to cite economic statistics and academic theorists like Joseph Schumpeter as proof of her contentions’ veracity. “According to recent studies, people have a tendency to ‘know’ things intuitively before they actually have the evidence to support their conclusions,” Chamberlain writes. That’s probably the best way to approach this book.
Hip pop-cultural analysis limited by neophyte economic theorizing.