Getting Reoriented

But unlike most periods in history, young people today do not have to either “wait their turn” or directly confront a social order that is systematically stacked against them. Operating in the margins by a hacker ethos — a problem solving sensibility based on rapid trial-and-error and creative improvisation —  they are able to use software leverage and loose digital forms of organization to create new economic, social and political wealth. In the process, young people are indirectly disrupting politics and economics and creating a new parallel social order. Instead of vying for control of venerable institutions that have already weathered several generational wars, young people are creating new institutions based on the new software and new wealth. These improvised but highly effective institutions repeatedly emerge out of nowhere, and begin accumulating political and economic power. Most importantly, they are relatively invisible. Compared to the visible power of youth counterculture in the 1960s for instance, today’s youth culture, built around messaging apps and photo-sharing, does not seem like a political force to reckon with. This culture also has a decidedly commercial rather than ideological character, as a New York Times writer (rather wistfully) noted in a 2011 piece appropriately titled Generation Sell.4 Yet, today’s youth culture is arguably morepowerful as a result, representing as it does what Jane Jacobs called the “commerce syndrome” of values, rooted in pluralistic economic pragmatism, rather than the opposed “guardian syndrome” of values, rooted in exclusionary and authoritarian political ideologies.

Source: Getting Reoriented


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