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John Della Volpe, the polling director at Harvard, went on to personally interview a small group of young people about their attitudes toward capitalism to try to learn more. They told him that capitalism was unfair and left people out despite their hard work.
“They’re not rejecting the concept,” Della Volpe said. “The way in which capitalism is practiced today, in the minds of young people — that’s what they’re rejecting.”
But there is something else going on that is just as important as the growing dissatisfaction with capitalism among the millennials. They are starting to question the idea of what constitutes a good life.
Millennials are watching their parents and grandparents consume the patrimony that historically has been passed on to future generation. They watch the equity in their parent’s homes being sucked away by reverse mortgages and see that the program is now to spend every last dime and then die. The perversion of the American dream is so obscene that they feel little connection to a past that will leave them with nothing but debt and limited opportunities. And they wonder why they should follow the example of those who have thrown away the fundamental advantages that this country brought to its people.
And searching for acceptance, they gave it all way. Only the children of their children know the price they had to pay.
And the children of their children are the millennials. And they are both pissed and dismayed. The rise of populism is a direct result of this increasing dissatisfaction with capitalism as it presently operates in the US. The rise of Bernie Sanders is a clear reflection of that. Even the faux populism of Donald Trump can be connected to that dissatisfaction. It is worth noting that the last ‘establishment’ candidate standing is a Democrat and that increasingly Wall Street and the very wealthy are deciding that she is preferable to populism.
Millennials are the canary in the coal mine. They are telling us something about the future of the United States and of capitalism as its defining economic system. We are fast approaching a time – if we are not there already – when the leadership of both political parties will be ignored as lackeys of the wealthy and special interests. We are fast approaching a time of revolution. The torch will not be passed to a new generation. It will be wrenched from the hands of those who seek to perpetuate a system that millennials see as rigged and fundamentally un-American.
I am a political and social theorist with a PhD from Strathclyde University in Glasgow Scotland and a Masters from The Sloan School of Management at MIT. My most recent book is Envisioning, Wandering Outside the Boxes: a speculation on the process of political and sociological theorizing as it is currently practiced, and to some extent on how it has been historically practiced,. It is available in paperback and Amazon Kindle.
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