Slackonomics: Generation X in the Age of Creative Destruction

Slackonomics: Generation X in the Age of Creative Destruction

by Lisa Chamberlain

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Why Gen Xers-waiting for Boomers to retire-have made the choices they have, and how their creativity can save us from economic ruin  See more details below


Why Gen Xers-waiting for Boomers to retire-have made the choices they have, and how their creativity can save us from economic ruin

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

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. (July)

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Library Journal

Slackonomics doesn't have much to do with economics or with the recent best seller Freakonomics. But then, Chamberlain is forthright about being a freelance writer, not an economist. In a book that is part armchair sociology, part oral history, and part apologia, Chamberlain bounces between the TV sitcom Family Ties and the film Donnie Darko to explain how a strange combination of ennui and passion forged the Generation X Zeitgeist. She illustrates the entrepreneurship of Gen X through the cultural intersection of the films Wall Street and Say Anything. Marriage, friendship, happiness, and other aspects of the human experience get the same VH1 treatment. This generation's saving grace, argues Chamberlain, is its inclination toward creative destruction, that is, its rejection of existing systems and extrusion of only their most vital parts. Chamberlain interviews a handful of people about their alternative career success stories but never provides evidence that her interviewees aren't the exception or that creative destruction is unique to this generation. Her hyperbolic claims and reliance on 1980s-1990s pop culture will likely leave readers of other generations cold. Gen Xers, however, should find this a light, nostalgic, enjoyable read. Recommended for public libraries.
—Robert Perret

Kirkus Reviews
New York Times contributor Chamberlain provocatively posits that people "born in the mid-1960s through the '70s" are no slackers but pioneering innovators who will solve the economic crises endemic to capitalism. Her gushing, anecdotal "portrait of a generation" aims to reverse the popular notion of a directionless Generation X condemned to "Option Paralysis." Expanding on her 2004 article in the New York Observer, the author argues that repeated economic downturns such as the dotcom meltdown and the 1990s recession, together with rapidly advancing technology and the Internet, have forced Xers to become "practical risk-takers." They have creatively reinterpreted their lives, she asserts. They reject corporate jobs to become entrepreneurs and choose to live in urban spaces with communal areas. They delay marriage and rely on friends and social networks; they seek flexible gender roles and become single parents. In rambling chapters with tongue-in-cheek titles (e.g., "Funny Weird or Funny Ha-Ha? . . . Hey, Why Limit Yourself?"), Chamberlain juxtaposes pop-culture critiques with profiles of various Gen Xers. Jen Bekman, who transformed herself from a struggling website developer into an art-gallery owner, is the subject of one of the more interesting portraits, but Chamberlain selectively emphasizes Xers of middle-class, suburban origin, several of whom are freelance writers like the author. Her economic theorizing is unconvincing. Capitalism is constantly in a state of tumult and renewal, she argues; the current state of "supercapitalism" ("mind-boggling income inequality, global warming") can be best addressed by the creativity of Xers. "I'm not an economist (not even a ‘rogue' one)," theauthor admits, and that can be seen in her tendency to cite economic statistics and academic theorists like Joseph Schumpeter as proof of her contentions' veracity. "According to recent studies, people have a tendency to ‘know' things intuitively before they actually have the evidence to support their conclusions," Chamberlain writes. That's probably the best way to approach this book. Hip pop-cultural analysis limited by neophyte economic theorizing. Agent: Neil Salkind/StudioB

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