(2019-09-09) Thompson Elite Failure Has Brought Americans To The Edge Of An Existential Crisis

Derek Thompson: Elite Failure Has Brought Americans to the Edge of an Existential Crisis. In 1998, the Wall Street Journal and NBC News asked several hundred young Americans to name their most important values. Work ethic led the way—naturally. After that, large majorities picked patriotism, religion, and having children.

Twenty-one years later, the same pollsters asked the same questions of today’s...

Today’s respondents were 10 percentage points less likely to value having children and 20 points less likely to highly prize patriotism or religion.

One interpretation of this poll is that it’s mostly about the decline of traditional western faith.

A second interpretation of this poll is that it’s mostly about politics

it’s possible that Millennials are simply throwing babies out with the Republican bathwater.

But it looks like something bigger is going on. Millennials and Gen Z are not only unlikely to call themselves Protestants and patriots, but also less likely to call themselves Democrats or Republicans.

This blanket distrust of institutions (BigWorld) of authority—especially those dominated by the upper class—is reasonable, even rational.

But this new American skepticism doesn’t only affect the relatively young; and it isn’t confined to the over-educated yet under-employed, either.

older, low-income men without a college degree in black and white working-class neighborhoods in the Boston, Charleston, Chicago, and Philadelphia areas.

many of these men—having been disconnected from the stable, unionized, pension-paying jobs of their fathers—reject the diseased state of America’s institutions in ways that Millennials might find relatable.

low-income working-class men are turning away from organized religion even faster than Millennials and Gen Z.

Second, their detachment from religion flows from a feeling that elites have lost their credibility

similar distrust among the working class for political elites

many poor working-class men now eschew the nuclear family, in their own way. Their marriage rates have declined in lockstep with their church attendance. But the authors note that a number of these men were eager to have close relationships with their children, even when they had little relationship with the mother.

Anxiety, depression, and suicidality have increased to unprecedented levels among younger people. Meanwhile, deaths from drugs and suicide—so-called "deaths of despair," which are concentrated in the white working class—have soared in the last two decades

The older working-class men in the Edin, Nelson, et al paper desperately want meaning in their lives, but they lack the social structures that have historically been the surest vehicles for meaning-making

The ends of Millennials and Gen-Z are similarly traditional. The NBC/WSJ poll found that, for all their institutional skepticism, this group was more likely than Gen-Xers to value “community involvement” and more likely than all older groups to prize “tolerance for others

What Americans young and old are abandoning is not so much the promise of family, faith, and national pride, but the trust that America’s existing institutions can be relied on to provide for them.

Yet they are laying claim to a measure of autonomy and generativity in these spheres that were less often available in prior generations. We must consider both the unmaking and remaking aspects of their stories.”


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