This is why Malcolm Harris’s new book, Kids These Days, is a landmark. Remarkably for an author of a trade book on such an on-trend topic, Harris makes a politically radical argument, undergirded by a coherent and powerful Marxist analysis ... In Harris’s view, we are, down to our innermost being, the children of neoliberalism ... Harris works through this argument by following the millennial through the stages of life — as far as we’ve yet gotten ...Harris is a peerless observer of the harrowing economic costs of 'meritocracy,' and his chapter on college abounds in withering apercus ...convincing that there’s more to this phenomenon than an artifact of measurement ... The summation Kids These Days gives us is harrowing: here is a generation hurrying to give in to the unremitting, unforgiving commodification of the self.
In Kids These Days, the journalist and critic Malcolm Harris restores a good deal of precision to the business of defining the millennial and generational discourse in general ...folds into the central analytic claim: what makes the millennial situation distinctive is that it has produced workers who are too well-trained for their own good ... Through this lens we get a sweeping sketch of the bleak, anxiety-ridden lives of young Americans ... Harris is at his most forceful when arguing that society conspires to make life worse for young people ...Harris gives the impression, correctly, that he doesn’t see young people as essentially good or as the new agents of historical change ... To this end, Kids These Days disavows a prescriptive conclusion. Harris is sceptical about traditional forms of political strategy, even questioning the usefulness of protest.
In his new book Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials, he warns that we ought to take the historical formation of this cohort seriously, because it represents a single point of failure for a society veering toward oligarchy and/or dystopia ... Harris’s thesis is simple: young people are doing more and getting less in a society that that has incentivized their labor with the promise of a fair shake, and that older generations are profiting handsomely from the breach of contract ...highlight of the book is its admirably lucid précis of higher education, the student debt crisis, and the institutional wealth accumulation it fuels ...rest of the book, unfortunately, is more hit-or-miss ...a very white book, in ways that it might not have been if not for Harris’s insistence on capturing the experience of a monolithic millennial cohort ...Harris paints millennials as a renegade version of the generation of heroes.