Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Thu Mar 5th 2009 at 10:52am UTC

Reset or Revolution

A BC reader comments on my Globe column:

I┬ádon’t think we’re in a recession so much as we’re in a revolution – and it seems closely linked to age and generation lines.

Anyone born after 1996, has experienced resistence settling into a career, paying off student debt, financing a house, a car, etc. The idea of working for one company during one’s working life is far fetched.

Having been denied the single family homes in the suburbs and it’s trappings, alternative values and lifestyles have emerged. There’s no loyalty to automakers, phone companies, or TV networks.

The new generation and economy has forced individuals to adapt to cheaper technologies, means of mobility, communication and a global marketplace. Raising families has been put on hold if not abandoned altogether. Even nationhood has become obsolete.

It’s a brave new world, but corporate boards and political parties have yet to figure it out – or are in a blissful state of denial.

As the new generation abandons traditional middle class mores and lifestyles, who will pay the taxes on increasing medicare costs? Who will purchase the homes built during this last boom and the baby boom generation? Who wants to finance a vehicle in which gas, insurance, maintenance costs continue to rise?

7 Responses to “Reset or Revolution”

  1. Buzzcut Says:

    Did that guy really mean, “anyone born after 1966″? He didn’t mean 1996, right?

    I was born in ‘71. I’ve had 3 different employers in the 14 years I’ve been in the workforce. I’ve owned 4 different houses. I’ve lived in 3 states and 2 different time zones. I’ve owned 5 different car brands.

    So there’s a lot of truth there for me, although with a wife and 4 kids, I certainly have not put off the family aspect of life. But I see people who have, so I think that there is truth there as well.

  2. Bram Timmer Says:

    I think the new generation is simply being presented with more options than were available to the masses back 40-50 years ago. If people can become wealthy off of showing their private parts, create online tv shows, or simply make a living with what they love doing… why reform to traditional middle class lifestyle?

    One of the industries that seems to understand is the creative advertisement industry. Being liberal thinkers (for the most part) it allows for external influence, and I think many young people are aware of that, thus there’s a real push for young talent breaching through the creative industries.

    Personally, I was born in 1983, have worked a few summer jobs in between college and university and have never looked back at working at one particular company. Freelancer way of life. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t dedicate the rest of my life to one particular company, even though I’ve been freelancing for 6 years. The tendencies for agencies is simply to mistreat their staff in one form or another, which makes is less appealing to stick around. It used to be that if you got a job, you’d bend over backwards to keep it, especially in the executive roles but with the options available (other agencies, smaller studios, career change) and the entrepreneurial spirit being so high in many individuals – there is a shift.

    Even as I write this, I believe there is a huge shift within the ad world to form companies in a different way. Offices seem irrelevant, employees work from home from all corners of the world but are only unified by the company name they currently work under, simply because it’d be harder for each one of those employees to obtain the work themselves.

    I consider myself a liberal thinker and live a very liberal lifestyle but I’m still loyal to my mobile carrier simply because they’ve proven their kindness again and again due to loyalty programs and what not. As for auto manufacturer, I’ve never looked outside of the VW + friends lines. Quality still goes a long way.

  3. Wendy Says:

    The writer does hit on one potential upcoming challenge: generations x and y (especially the creative class) seem to be less motivated by money. Once they have enough to finance a decent living level, many don’t work extra.

    For example, the BC Ministry of Health has found that the higher the fees offered to doctors, the fewer hours they work. Several doctors I know work only 3 days per week, raising kids, rock climbing or skiing the other days.

    As I wrote a few weeks ago in the Workplace Trends column, some companies are currently asking employees to go part time, to 3 or 4 days per week. I expect that many workers will resist returning to 5 days once the economy turns around.

    The writer is correct in that this “revolution” could exacerbate the Canadian labour shortage; reduce overall economic growth; and impact government revenues.

  4. tom brakke Says:

    Those strains and difficulties are moving into the older demographic cohorts, the baby boomers (my age makes me the median baby boomer) and beyond.

    While there have been vocational challenges, etc., for my generation, one great wind at our backs was the positive financial environment of falling interest rates and rising stock prices.

    I think it’s now in our faces.

  5. Troy Camplin Says:

    “Anyone born after 1996, has experienced resistence settling into a career, paying off student debt, financing a house, a car, etc.”

    I was born in 1971. I did fine on the house and car, but I am still unemployed and have $80,000 in student loan debt (plus $50,000 for my wife). I have a Ph.D. in the humanities, a M.A. in English, and a B.A. in recombinant gene technology. My dissertation was titled “Evolutionary Aesthetics.” I’m an interdisciplinary scholar and poet-playwright-fiction writer. I am, needless to say, highly creative. Nobody has a clue what to do with me, and nobody will hire me. I was told by one teaching position that I didn’t have enough philosophy; by another, I was told I had too much. I’ve been told I was overqualified by an English dept. looking for a Ph.D. to fill the position in question. I was told by a think tank that they didn’t know how to “classify” me. I’m at a loss, and I don’t know what to do.

  6. Robert Says:

    This is Zygmunt Bauman’s thinking in his liquid books.

    There’s no loyalty shown by firms to their employees, so why should employees reciprocate?

    There’s no loyalty shown by workers to their community, as this generation was brought up thinking that community is oppressive. This translates into children having no responsibility to their parents as they up and leave to wherever employment takes them. Who picks up the responsibility for care? Who helps with their own childcare? Family responsibility is, in effect, privatised.

    When forced to consider family responsibility in entirely financial terms, why not extend your choice of partner to the same analysis? Will I save money by moving in with this woman? Will he expect me to look after him when I’m old? Consequently, household breakdown rates rocket.

    With the consequent explosion in households, demand for housing and consumption increases. Houseprices rise inexorably until there’s a crash.

    Upset by the crash that greed, lack of responsibility, and an inability to grow up, the “me” generation (not x or y, just “me”) caused, lacks the solidarity to pool together and express their shared anger. Because they’ve become too atomised, too introverted, lacking the social skills – despite being infinitely and instantly connected to a virtual world, their power has been sucked out of them and stored online.

    In the ultimate post-modern twist, rather than being the subversive, creative and hyper-intelligent saviours that we’re meant to see them as, the “me” generation has subverted itself into an ovine, obsequious and placid crowd. If you’re a band these days, the goal is to be famous instantly – myspace,twitter and other beta communities are exploited… to be famous. Not to promote music, values, talent – just a chase for money and fame. There is no alternative anymore.

  7. Jen Says:

    Amen, Robert!

    To me, it’s the middleclass Baby Boomers and those with the same mindset that are most distraught, and not just because their investments went south. They don’t know how to deal well with adversity and working together with others.