Slackonomics “is full of interesting mini-arguments, including an entertaining takedown of Ethan Watters’s Urban Tribes …” Publishers Weekly, May 26, 2008
I have to admit rather enjoying the fact that the Publisher’s Weekly reviewer noted my dissection of Urban Tribes, a pseudo-sociology trend book that tries to argue that Generation X is not settling down and getting married because “friends are the new family.” One of the more unsubstantiated reasons he attributes to Generation X never “growing up” is because we have a lot of disposable income and, what’s more, “In the long run, most of us knew we had an ace in the hole. Many of us were in line to be the beneficiaries of the largest transfer of wealth that had ever taken place from one generation to the next.”
There was plenty of evidence this wasn’t true when he wrote it and more evidence keeps coming. An article in today’s Times is titled, “8 Reasons You Should Not Expect an Inheritance.” You can read it and weep for yourself, but here is one point worth highlighting: A 2004 survey “noted that 21 percent of people born after 1964 thought they would inherit some money someday. After all, most of them [meaning us Gen Xers] still have living parents or grandparents. But with each passing year, the pressures on the nest eggs of those older people will only grow. The truly rich will be fine, as they usually are. But a lot of other people, even retirees with net worths well into the seven figures, could end up spending every dime before they die.”
I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that the new economy and the old safety net system are seriously out of whack. Pensions, Medicare and Social Security? Please. As the article points out, those are reasons two and three not to expect an inheritance in the first place.
The take-away from Publishers Weekly, May 26, 2008:
Knowledgeable and well-written … Slackonomics is full of interesting mini-arguments [and] serves to illuminate the many disparate pockets of a group that continues to resist easy categorization.
The full review:
Freelance writer Chamberlain’s exploration of the social and professional choices of Generation X is a knowledgeable and well-written addition to the growing library of books devoted to the “alternative” generation. The author focuses primarily on the way that the young men and women of the 1990s made their money, and does a nice job conveying the tough economic fortunes of the beginning of that decade and the creative and financial boom of the Internet’s early days, as well as the eventual fallout when it went bust. Chamberlain uses each chapter of the book to address a specific aspect of the generation in question, often using a combination of cultural touchstones and sociology books to illustrate her point; a chapter about Gen-X relationships ponders the Richard Linklater film Before Sunrise and quotes extensively from Stephanie Coontz’s Marriage, a History. Often, the text is taken over by monologues from Gen-Xers themselves, who
narrate their winding paths through the job market, usually ending in creative and relatively fulfilling jobs as a result of their ingenuity. While the book is full of interesting mini-arguments, including an entertaining takedown of Ethan Watters’s Urban Tribes, it doesn’t present a cohesive vision. Rather, it serves to illuminate the many disparate pockets of a group that continues to resist easy categorization.