Millennial Quit Video

Tao Jones’s analysis on his WSJ blog strikes me as quite correct, except that I would attribute the emphasis on what he calls the “hustle” to the diminished efficacy of traditional signalling mechanisms (especially credentialing via education) rather than a reduction in demand for labor caused by the late recession.

Of the data he offers, an increased belief among millennials in the need to “beat the system” is the most compelling.


Whether or not those sampled realize it however, the survey phrases (or understands) the issue incorrectly. The necessity is not to beat the system, but to beat, and demonstrably beat, their competitors within the system.

This would hardly have been unfamiliar to the boomers and matures. The difference is that the education system, once a credible means of demonstrating student capability to prospective employers, has been largely degraded as such in the wake of the liberal arts’ capture by Critical disciplines. Employers are aware of this and discount the value of college degrees accordingly.

Competitors for status within this system come to believe (whether by conscious reflection or unconscious observation–ever more often of viral incidents like this) that success requires extraordinary means, which is to say means outside of those offered by the system. This emphasis, lately called “personal branding,” is not about beating the system, but in fact escaping it.

Lest it be thought that this attitude arose only during the “Great Recession,” or pursuant to widespread use of social media, a popularly–correctly or not it doesn’t matter–held belief among my high school associates when we were applying for college (this was during the Dot Com boom, before facebook) is illustrative:

A student had been accepted to Harvard on account of his personal statement. The prompt:¬† “What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?” His response, if you don’t know and haven’t already guessed, was “Fuck you.”


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