Newsletter #178: Capitalism Is Eating Its Young


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In the middle of my teaching career, many of my students stopped believing in the promise of college. They doubted that high-paying jobs were waiting for them on the other side. They weighed the opportunity cost, calculating their chances of graduating vs. the heavy debt they would accrue. In short, they were having millennial thoughts. Today’s lead article — which calls for revolution! — will rock your world if you’re a boomer or Generation Xer. But if you’re a millennial, you might feel right at home.

Also in today’s issue, enjoy articles on international migration, the importance of sleep, and the future of journalism. My hope is you’ll find at least one article that will get you to think or urge you to have a conversation with a friend. Happy reading!

Capitalism Made Millennials This Way

The Highlighter #175 established that millennials are burned out because they’re always busy optimizing their lives. But what’s the root cause of all this self-improvement? The answer is unremitting, unflinching capitalism, according to Malcolm Harris, author of the new book, Kids These Days. Over the past century, neoliberal beliefs, which have elevated the market over the self, have created institutions promising young people power if they invest in their own human capital (e.g., college, student debt) and commodify themselves (e.g., branding, selfies). The problem is, these institutions (e.g., health care, home ownership) no longer work. But getting rid of them would disrupt The Olds. Keeping them is no better. (27 min)

Get your Marxist lens on and tell me what you think! Hit reply to share your thoughts. Is this guy way out there, or right on the money?

Beyond Walls

Our phones bombard us with updates on the border showdown, but they don’t help us understand the broader picture of international migration. This article takes a bigger view, focusing on the record 258 million migrants around the world. Reporter Haley Sweetland Edwards expertly balances the personal stories of refugees with the challenges liberal democracies face. She writes, “We are living today in a global society increasingly roiled by challenges that can be neither defined nor contained by physical barriers.” (24 min)

The Impact of Sleep on Our Health

I used to subscribe to Benjamin Franklin’s axiom: “There will be sleeping enough in the grave.” Then I wondered why I was so lethargic come afternoon. Now sleeping’s all the rage, thanks to Matthew Walker, author of Why We Sleep. (I recommend you read the book, though not at bedtime.) Cutting to the chase: Give yourself a nightly 8-hour “sleep opportunity.” If you don’t, you’ll die. (16 min)

Does Journalism Have a Future?

Can our society exist without reliable news? Since the 2016 election, elite publications have seen huge gains in subscriptions, but local news and digital journalism continue to suffer. This excellent article by historian Jill Lepore traces the trends in journalism over the past 100 years. Some of what you’ll learn will surprise you. (30 min)

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