OK! OK, Boomer: the Critical Theory of Contemporary Angst

“And we so appreciate the intergenerational spirit in this room!” proclaimed an organizer to an excited crowd, addressing the meeting I was about to speak at. I looked around but all I saw around me were people, insofar as I could judge, who looked, well, young. As I got ready to take the mic I realized, much to my horror, I was the other generation being appreciated. A young Gen Xer in a room full of Millennials and some Gen Zers, I actually experienced a momentary crisis of self: here I was, Converse One Stars and all, about to be the old guy, dispensing some kind of dubious generational wisdom. I thought to myself: “hey kids,” as I morphed into a living, breathing Poochie, “I’m still cool!” Just look at this hip-and-with-it playlist of youth-angst I just walked over to: Nirvana, PJ Harvey, Sonic Youth. Oh fuck.

It was not too much later that I first encountered “OK Boomer.” Like some kind of hybrid species, I learned of it both through strings of hilarious videos on Twitter copied over from TikTok and in the pages of the Gray Lady herself, in a now famous article by media journalist Taylor Lorenz.[1] As Lorenz noted, after pouring through thousands of TikToks, “Rising inequality, unaffordable college tuition, political polarization exacerbated by the internet, and the climate crisis all fuel anti-boomer sentiment.”[2] Detractor reactions ranged from defensive to didactic but, quite honestly, I thought it was hilarious. The real question about OK Boomer, insofar as it lives on and manages to not become the proprietary IP of a transnational corporation, seems to circle around what exactly “anti-boomer sentiment” is.

The modern language of generational politics—Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z, etc.—can be traced to Bill Strauss and Neil Howe’s 1991 tome Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069 and a series of follow-ups from them and throughout media.[3] But the broader idea goes back much further. Many, well, Boomers, will recall the 60s/70s counter-cultural slogan “don’t trust anyone over 30.” In early 20th century Germany, youth movements sprung up across the country before the first World War. An ecstatic and very young Walter Benjamin, riding a wave of romanticism, would proclaim “that from youth alone radiates a new spirit, the spirit.”[4] This is where the hope and possibility for radical change lay. Already at this time though, Benjamin could see cracks in the argument: reactionaries pressed the case of youth in nationalistic and racial terms, often mixed with the martial language of war and heroism. When many of Benjamin’s young friends enthusiastically enlisted in the German war effort, it was one of the first of many disillusionments that the thinker would experience. Over the next ten years Benjamin would reexamine his thinking and become the Marxist theoretician and critic—albeit the rather heterodox one—that he was until his dying day.

At the back of just about every Marxist’s mind is an extremely good critique of generational politics. Generational politics obscure class and other social relations. It is a classic example of a kind of sociological sleight-of-hand: you paint a picture of a given population through a categorization which, while reflecting some empirical reality, cuts across more meaningful social relations: not only class, but race, gender, and so on. Such social relations do not constitute the essence of some kind of class or social grouping but rather reflect the relationships of said class with the overall system of capitalism and, in particular, in struggle with the ruling class. Both empirically and theoretically there is much to commend this analysis.  It is, of course, not the case that all Boomers are well-off. Far from it. Many are facing crises of both low income and debt as they reach not only the prospect (seemingly impossible for increasing numbers) of retirement but of working dim, difficult, and debilitating late-life labor. Approximately 50% of Americans approaching retirement age have less than $25000 in savings. 25%, $1000 or less.[5] Meanwhile, capital “innovates, new creative methods of eldercare and assisted living. They are calculated sometimes down to the penny to zero-out whatever paltry wealth a person may have accumulated by the time of their profitable demise. In the almost perfectly optimized system of value extraction and private wealth concentration that is the 21st century economy most Boomers, like most everyone, face a grim socioeconomic reality.

But a good historical materialist has to consider all the ways in which a particular set of social and material conditions might have markedly different effects as structures shift and change. As unevenly and unequally as it was experienced in the United States, the post-war period was the longest single expansion of economic growth in human history, with its profits and payouts overwhelmingly concentrated in the Global North by systemic structure.[6] These helped underwrite not only the economic foundations of white “middle class” “normalcy” but what Raymond Williams called a “structure of feeling”:

A distinction from more formal concepts of ‘world-view’ or ‘ideology’. It is not only that we must go beyond formally held and systematic beliefs, though of course we have always to include them. It is that we are concerned with meanings and values as they are actively lived and felt…not feeling against thought, but thought as felt and feeling as thought: practical consciousness of a present kind, in a living and interrelating continuity. We are then defining these elements as a ‘structure’: as a set, with specific internal relations, at once interlocking and in tension.[7]

What we have to understand, Williams is suggesting, is how material conditions not only produce ideology which legitimates and helps reproduce capitalism but also sets of experiences and feelings not precisely reducible to ideology or its political and cultural hegemony. That is to say, we must attend to the experiences, feelings, desires, dreams, aspirations, fears, anxieties, dreads, and hopes that characterize a period of time as well.

The unprecedented mid-century economic expansion was constituted by a heady mix in the Global North – post-War rebuilding, “imperialism rent” (as the late Samir Amin once put it), nationally oriented class-compromise, and the radical expansion of ecological inputs that constituted “the Great Acceleration.”[8]  It’s never coming back.[9] But “the Great Acceleration” produced a “structure of feeling,” an affective cluster, that spills far outside the simple, if still largely true, class portrait that some Marxists might want to turn to. It is that “structure of feeling” which OK Boomer indicts with such exquisite rage.

When one looks at some quintessential examples of OK Boomer media—the “official” music video version, for example—you don’t see (only) forms of generational angst but a rather specific attack against everything associated with “the American Way-of-Life” in that supposedly glorious mid-century Golden Age.[10] Its racism and sexism, its predication on multiple forms of misery. But it also attacks the specifically white, comfortable counterculture of self-actualization that supposedly “refused” that time. There’s no clever Bob Dylan lyric or tuneful Americana here. Just images of that whole world—from schlocky Hollywood Westerns to Richard Nixon to young Boomers getting high—set against utter rejection, “say America again, I’m gonna take a piss.” The images of “Boomers” in the music video are all from this era, or they are a set of obvious stock images from the contemporary era, expressing what we might call the “Boomer” structure-of-feeling projected into the present: ease and wealth juxtaposed with many of the themes Lorenz identified in her essay: inequality, debt, and a general intuitive rage that connects these conditions with those aspirations. Although Lorenz writes of “political polarization,” what one finds here might be more precisely termed political intensification. Images of American Nazis parade, Donald Trump is juxtaposed with Benito Mussolini. Indeed, the only specific Boomers of note we encounter are: Trump, Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, and Michael Jordan. On trial are also myths about political progress, technological idolatry, and meritocratic achievement. This is not disgust with partisan divides or any of the everyday nonsense terms produced in overdrive by the mainstream media. It is disgust with a particular politics producing or justifying the material conditions of today.

The kind of structure of feeling that Williams is talking about—associated with a particular temporal period—is extraordinarily hard to exit and it isn’t simply ideological. Even—perhaps especially—for the politically involved or informed, it can be difficult to break out of the horizons of our times. Not because we don’t know enough. One might very well know everything there is to know about a given set of historical conditions, how commodities are produced, circulated, exchanged, and consumed, and still treat any given object—a dish, a cucumber, a pen, a shirt, a smartphone—as self-standing objects, commodities, as if they have an intrinsic value and a value in relation to other commodities. This is of course Marx’s notion of the commodity fetish. No matter how much we know—it’s not an intellectual problem—we quite literally can’t see what’s plainly in front of our own eyes. This is true of our experience of time as well.

It’s not Boomers that OK Boomer really aims at per se but at a “Boomerist” “structure of feeling” which has long outlived not only its material foundations but even, in some cases, its ideological armature. But it remains, for some, a kind of emotional imprint. It may well involve empirical errors but above all it is an affective attachment, what Lauren Berlant calls, “cruel optimism,” attachments to “conventional good life fantasies… when the evidence of their instability, fragility, and dear costs abound.”[11] In this way, say, the Paris Climate Accords—which demand radical, unprecedented socioeconomic and political change and yet remain simultaneously committed to preserving the very system which both produces the crisis and stymies its response—is a perfectly Boomerist “cruel optimism.” When the collective authors of the latest IPCC special report on limiting global warming to a Δ1.5 degree world propose carbon prices as high as $14,300 per ton by the end of this decade, this is all but admitting that the ideological bubble has burst and that market mechanisms are an absurd approach to climate mitigation and adaptation.[12] It is certainly not the case that Boomerism in this sense should actually be understood truly, literally, generationally. But rather that it expresses a kind of Boomerist feeling that is situated in the projection and recollection of a particular version of that mid-century aberration. Maybe—somehow—despite the plain words on the page and even the positive demand for anything but—things will go on as they were, a win-win situation is possible.

On the trivial end of OK Boomer TikToks, one finds agitation against exactly this kind of free-floating calm, this groundless hopefulness, and individualized striving. It’s not only that certain ideas—the ease of getting a job, paying for school, the possibility of a “ladder of success”—are wildly out-of-joint with contemporary reality. It’s also the sense that it was all a little bit bullshit for many Boomers too. The videos rarely project envy for a bygone era; they are denunciations of a whole way of life. In other words, far from expressing totalizing generational discord, or classic middle class or petit-bourgeois aspiration, they are, ironically for some Marxist dismissals, the beginnings of a kind of class consciousness.

For many who came of political consciousness in the dark days of the 90s or even the early 2000s, that is Gen Xers, it can be similarly hard—no matter how well one understands how things have changed—to actually break out of a defensive, defeatist, and ultimately even conservative understanding of politics. Particularly for professional activists—not only on the Marxist left but even the loosely broad “progressive” world—it is difficult to think outside of this feeling, no matter how much evidence is martialed, no matter how well the shift in historical conditions is understood. Some contemporary political fracture is predicated on the class position of say, professional activists, or on a structural dependency on the largess of the wealthy; it is also sometimes an inability, although certainly not an impossibility, to break from this mood.[13]

It’s not that the only people channeling these sentiments are actually, literally, by the strict year ranges typified by pseudo-scientific generational analyses, Boomers, or Xers, or Millennials, or Gen Z and so on. There are plenty of Boomers who seem to inhabit the affect of Xers, Millennials who act like the world’s most OK Boomers. I’m sure, somewhere out there, is the Gen Z Alex P. Keaton. Indeed, as I stated above, the Marxist critique is largely correct; other categories of social relations might be far more crucial. It’s just, ironically perhaps, insufficiently materialist. Just as many Marxists take seriously that a range of social relations can inform one’s subjectivity, that pervasive ideologies generated in and from the ruling class can be hegemonic, we should take into account how an overarching affect of one’s times can be differently pervasive across class lines but pervasive nonetheless. Only the thing about such affect is that one might term it pre-political; there’s nothing automatic about it. It doesn’t produce a particular politics. But this is true of all politics.

Long before Williams or Berlant, Antonio Gramsci tried to express this indeterminacy in ways still largely unappreciated (or misunderstood) even by many of his readers. While capitalist society, particularly in the economic realm, really does function according to a set of structural forces, at an affective level, argued Gramsci, it can inculcate “political passion as an immediate impulse to action which is born on the permanent and organic terrain of economic life but which transcends it, bringing into play emotions and aspirations in whose incandescent atmosphere even calculations involving individual human life obey different laws from those of individual profit.”[14] In other words, although capitalism operates through impersonal social forces and produces conditions of political possibility, actual politics involve “passion,” “emotion,” and “aspirations,” in which there is far greater room-for-maneuver than suggested by the rigidity of economic structure. But such “passions” are not immediately, obviously, a coherent politics.

One of the functions of a political party, Gramsci argued therefore, is to take momentary or “spontaneous” feeling and organize it into a form that can last, to connect “passions” with “the particular historical situation and connecting them dialectically to the laws of history and to a superior conception of the world, scientifically and coherently elaborated-i.e. knowledge.”[15] This is not to subordinate emotion to reason as passions are “necessary to sharpen the intellect.”[16] Politics and even political analysis is inconceivable without emotion: “one cannot make politics-history without this passion.”[17] Gramsci is sometimes misread as replacing politics, or politics and economics, with culture. But rather he is trying to understand how a particular class maintains “hegemony,” or how new “historic blocs” come to power, reactionary or revolutionary. What Gramsci theorizes though is that while structural forces are knowable and class and other “social group” positions are clearly connected to, and arrayed in relation to production, the passions therein produced, the affects, while they may contain a kind of general antagonism, a disgust with a failing order of things for example, passions do not themselves determine politics. These passions are, within limits, up for grabs.

It is here that we should understand OK Boomer. Almost everyone in the United States has experienced what is commonly called neoliberalism—the particular form of capitalism which has refashioned the world—from frictionless capital flows to the transformation of the old-fashioned rights-bearing individual into endlessly flexible and adaptable “human capital.”  Likewise, almost everyone in the United States is already experiencing both the overt, the indirect, and even the psychological dimensions of anthropogenic climate change. But we are not all experiencing such phenomena in the same ways. Quite obviously, for most of the now proverbial 1%, neoliberalism and its near miraculous return to profitability without an actual return to productivity growth (entirely related to the acceleration of climate change) is, well, awesome. Below the 90% percentile, most people probably feel quite otherwise. Similarly, as I have argued elsewhere, business-as-usual scenarios, as destructive as they are already are and promise to be, can be quite desirable and salutary from the point of view of many existing ruling class actors and their hangers-on. For the vast majority of people on Earth, and even majorities in Global North states, not so much.

To discuss how such experiences are different along racialized, gendered, or class-based lines is rightly quite common and, I think, increasingly understood; the class differences in the above examples are relatively straightforward. But the temporal experience of being born into neoliberalism and that of, as already discussed, the quite numerous poorly-off Boomers who slowly transitioned into it is different. Not deterministically so, but neither is class, race, or gender. Similarly, being born into the era in which anthropogenic climate change is a palpable reality is radically different for Millennials and Gen Z. Just not deterministically so. The other of OK Boomer is not some Platonically perfect imaginary class politics, it is the increasingly youth-driven Black-Green ecofascist alliances of Europe. Both are organizations of materially produced feelings but result in radically different historic blocs. These are not generational politics per se but rather different comportments to historical mythologies, different political organizations of matrices of class, race, gender, and temporal feeling.

One of the clearest signs that it would be an error to take OK Boomer literally as a form of traditionally understood generational politics is that it seems to have a pretty clear political standard-bearer, a man who, while not technically a Boomer, is close: Bernie Sanders. There are some enthusiasts for completely adopting a generational model from the left (capitalism made the kids like this and now the kids are fighting back). There’s some truth to this, although it’s often painted in anarchic tones. [18] But scrolling through video after video on TikTok, it is hard to find this political anarchism in OK Boomer. Instead, alongside all the kinds of phenomena Lorenz describes and all the qualities discussed in the “official” video before, one finds sometimes overt, sometimes quiet, sometimes frankly bizarre yet positive references to the aging democratic socialist, from one of the mildest tendencies in the history of the socialist left. Herbert Marcuse—also a favored elderly gentleman in a previously, more formally generational moment of politics—argued that the “liberation of inherent possibilities—the development, otherwise blocked and distorted, of material and intellectual productivity, faculties and needs… no longer adequately expresses the historical alternative.”[19] OK Boomer videos seem to think otherwise. There’s a range of inherent possibilities—economic equality and ecological sustainability, universal healthcare, public education, the free movement of people across borders and an almost constant, radical commitment to the obliteration of racial, gender, sexual, and other modes of social hierarchy. Marcuse also suggested that whatever this new “historical alternative” was, it would “transcend” traditional forms of politics and institutions. OK Boomer videos express a new mode of radical realism instead. Utopian in ambition, surreal in style, workaday in method. At the time of writing this article, while a simple TikTok search for “OKBoomer and Bernie Sanders” turns up an endless stream of mostly positive content, “OKBoomer and Buttigeg” has exactly zero hits. Apparently, from an OK Boomer perspective, not all Millennials are OK.

The picture painted by polling preferences unsurprisingly bears this pattern out. Sanders is the overwhelming favorite of Gen Z and Millennials, Elizabeth Warren a distant second.[20] It’s not that there aren’t right-wing youth, Trumpist neo-Nazis and more conventional reactionaries. Recall that across the Atlantic, large numbers of young Europeans, particularly young white Christian Europeans, are helping drive new forms of radical, right-wing movements predicated on many similar conditions. The kids are alright, but not automatically and not everywhere. And there are Xers who do shake off that mid-90s gloom and, indeed, plenty of Boomers whose radicalism is sharp, capacious, and intense.

It is of course here that all those possibly more influential, more constitutive social relations—race, class, gender—come into play, as well as specific geographical and cultural histories. The movement supporting Sanders is quite conspicuously young but also quite conspicuously multiracial, with disproportionate support from, for example, Latinos, Muslim-Americans, and immigrant communities more broadly. Insofar as one can measure class by the standards of American empirical sociology, the movement supporting Sanders seems to be broadly, but certainly not exclusively, working class. But none of these features are 100% determinate. And one can hardly claim that all these different people are converging on simple economic interest. Plenty of working-class voters are elsewhere as well; Marxists have long theorized class divides and “class fractions” across the board. Nor can one claim that all the specific values found in OK Boomer media are held across such a coalition or even, if I might, a nascent subject. What they hold together rather is that comportment to mid-century historical mythology. In one way or another each feels not only the crisis of today but also the specifically different yet converging rejections of the undesirability of that yesterday. Through the boring, ordinary work of politics, these are connected through the development of “coherently elaborated” knowledge while the “passions” sharpen, the affects intensify.

Ironically perhaps, many voices that dismiss OK Boomer and its supposed generational politics also fear that the very kind of politics that is making the Sanders coalition possible are going to undermine democratic socialism. In the name of “normie socialism,” issues outside a narrow economic frame should be assiduously avoided. “Regular people”—such a position suggests—are alienated by talk of race, gender fluidity, queer and trans rights, maybe even tamp down on the climate talk a bit. “Regular people” do not want to talk (or think) about migration.[21] It is obvious exactly who we are supposed to think regular people are. In the warmest reading, this is a strategic argument: offending culturally dominant sensibilities should be avoided as a kind of socialism is snuck in through the backdoor on purely “bread-and-butter” issues. Quietly, just in case it might wake up Mom. History has not been kind to this strategy of this way of thinking. It was not only vanguardist revolutionaries like Vladimir Lenin who railed against the reduction of socialism to “economism.” As the reform-minded, social democratic thinker Adam Prezworksi succinctly put it: socialism “may become possible when socialism once again becomes a social movement and not solely an economic one…when it assimilates cultural issues.”[22]

Against the history and theory of socialism the “normie” case goes so far as to claim that this kind of thing, even the mere idea of cultural radicalism, causes or will cause the failure of socialism. Not only does there not seem to be any evidence for this in the current moment, it is also precisely backwards.[23] The very social radicalism that OK Boomer expresses gives its young producers access to that vital rejection of the mid-century dreamworld. It is that rejection which bridges what might appear unlikely alliances. It may not have the experience of imperialism or of transgenerational poverty or a host of other conditions that underwrite the similar historical comportment of the other social formations flocking to democratic socialism in this moment. But a temporal “structure of feeling”—fueled by debt, inequality, climate change, and radical cultural opposition—strikes a resonant tone with those other social formations beyond the generational overlap. If we’re measuring by the popularity of the Sanders campaign—currently winning against every other Democratic candidate head-to-head and against Donald Trump as well[24]—plenty of “normies” don’t seem frightened of either the kind of attitudes expressed in OK Boomer videos or by the very different, “stretched” class subject, to borrow from Frantz Fanon, that is taking shape. Many on the left rightly lampoon liberals for chasing an imaginary “center.” But they then chase an equally illusory vision of what “real class politics” look like. There may very well be a “class politics” which are troubled by the very idea of different class fractions, and social positions may approach contemporary crises through different lenses, emphases, experiences, and feelings.[25] But those politics are not only not socialist in principle, they do not favor socialism in practice.

Rather, it is the kind of radicalism feared in something like OK Boomer that is strategically advantageous and located in material conditions. It reflects the reality of the growing movement itself because, as Gramsci would note, it is both grounded in the historical reality that the supposed mid-century Golden Age is not only never coming back (for economic, ecological, and a host of other reasons) but also that, for most people, that’s a clearly desirable thing. This is a truth you can build on because it is so widely applicable, unlike hegemonic cultural norms that are barely hanging on by a thread. It “sharpens” passions, and increases political intensification. While temporal-feeling might really put a thumb on some scales, plenty of “normies”—young and old—seem excited to sign-up. Few would deny that neoliberalism required a process of subjectification—of making a new subject, of cultivating a different form of subjectivity. Such a process happened through transformations stretching from the workplace to states to international institutions and to the most minute moments of cultural life. Why would socialism not also require a new subjectification? Marx certainly thought it did. Even the mildest forms of socialism are pushed and pulled by the broadly socially dissatisfied. “Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.”[26]

Whatever you want to call the world of today for broadly writ “youth”[27] it is a level of intensity, extraction, and exhaustion—social, economic, ecological, and psychological—simply not comparable to recent eras. The landscape of the global economy is nearly unrecognizable to that of even four or five decades ago. Fordism has not only passed into post-Fordism, the entire production process has been “unbundled” and scattered as far and as fast as comparative advantage needs and fossil fuels can provide. To chase the mid-century aberration as if it were a 21st century cure is a factual error that is also an ideological one; it lends credence to the mirage of nation, not power to the struggle of class. Potential socialist subjectification today looks less like the process of an industrial proletariat becoming a finely-tuned, potentially revolutionary agent in a tightly-knit matrix of factory, machinery, and human bodies, as one sees at various points in Marx’s Capital [28], than it does like the kids on the Netflix docudrama CHEER. These are your revolutionary vanguard, a kind of post-industrial, queer, multiracial army, forged in a society, in an ecology, that has transformed nearly all of life into grinding capitalist machinery. There they stand alongside people cast-off and cut-out from the vision OK Boomer lampoons so perfectly, bursting through a hyper-traditional cultural form with a different kind of intensity and discipline. The landscape of 21st century capitalism brings together kids like these and others like the largely East African meatpackers who attended the very first in-state caucus this year in Iowa, voting 14 to 1 for Sanders[29], and saying goodbye to the 20th century. There were “normies” there too, of course, but they were unphased by the fact that this is the new normal.

In many of his late works, Benjamin theorized forms of media and communication that would be based purely on reference, recursion, and re-imagination. That could connect mass audience—massively traumatized—to mass audience, in a mode that would shake off the rule of the past, so that the past might be available for the present. This, he gambled, might be the medium of a new kind of class consciousness for a new kind of capitalism. Today, we might finally be seeing a form of “politicized aesthetics.”[30] And of the politics they inform. Not in the precise formulations of mid-19th and mid-20th century thinkers but true to a still applicable ethos Marx proposed in 1848: “In bourgeois society, therefore, the past dominates the present; in Communist society, the present dominates the past.” OK Boomer.



[1] Taylor Lorenz, “’OK Boomer’ Marks the End of Friendly Generational Relations,” The New York Times, October 29, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/29/style/ok-boomer.html

[2] Ibid.

[3] C.f. Andrew Hart, “Against Generational Politics” (Jacobin, February 28, 2018) for a thorough history of Strauss, Howe and later iterations, and a somewhat traditionalist-socialist critique. https://jacobinmag.com/2018/02/generational-theory-millennials-boomers-age-history

[4] Walter Benjamin, ed. and trans. Howard Eiland, Early Writings (1910-1917) (Boston: Belknap Press 2011), 136; the implication seeming to be that it was through “the youth” that Hegel’s Geist would manifest.

[5] Bhaskar Sunkara, “Why It’s Time to Ditch the ‘OK Boomer’ Meme,” The Guardian, November 6, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/06/ok-boomer-meme-older-generations

[6] C.f. Thomas Piketty, Capitalism in the 21st Century

[7] Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1978), 132.

[8] Will Steffen, “The Trajectory of the Anthropocene: The Great Acceleration,” The Anthropocene Review 2, no. 1, January 2015, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2053019614564785

[9] C.f Aaron Benanav, “Automation and the Future of Work—1,” New Left Review, September/October 2019, https://newleftreview.org/issues/II119/articles/aaron-benanav-automation-and-the-future-of-work-1. See also Ch. 2 of Oliver Nachtwey’s Germany’s Hidden Crisis or even mainstream macroeconomic accounts from Robert Gordon or Larry Summers. As is almost universally clear from ecological analysis and ecological economic accounts, even if it was possible it would be disastrous from the point of view of sustainability and flourishing.  

[10] For a more thorough account of thinking with and about the concept of a “Golden Age” please see my colleague Rebecca Ariel Porte’s recent article, “VII.* Mourning song” in the Los Angeles Review of Books: http://avidly.lareviewofbooks.org/2018/02/21/vii-mourning-song/

[11] Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011), 2.

[12] IPCC, “Global Warming of 1.5° C” special report, 152, https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/2/2019/06/SR15_Full_Report_High_Res.pdf

[13] It is surprising to me that throughout the largely internecine and ultimately minor fracas that occurred among some parts of left American intelligentsia in 2019, while numerous theories of the precise position and political possibility of the “professional managerial class” were considered, questions asked about whether it was proper to classify a hedge fund manager, a teacher, a lawyer, or a nurse in the same social position, not once was the professional activist community discussed.  

[14] Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (New York: International Publishers, 1973), 140.

[15] Gramsci 418

[16] Gramsci 171

[17] Gramsci 418

[18] C.f. Natasha Lennard’s review of Malcolm Harris, “The Kids Aren’t Alright,” Dissent, Winter 2018, https://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/malcolm-harris-kids-these-days-review-millennials-capitalism. My point is not to criticize these positions per se but to bring them into a much broader political context.

[19] Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society, 2nd Edition (Boston: Beacon Press, 1991), 254-255.

[20] John Gramlich, “A Snapshot of the Top 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates’ Supporters,” Pew Research Center, February 10, 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/02/10/a-snapshot-of-the-top-2020-democratic-presidential-candidates-supporters/

[21] Please see Angela Nagle’s Kill all Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4Chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right (Winchester: Zero Books, 2017) and her “The Left Case Against Open Borders” (American Affairs 2, no. 4, Winter 2018) for just two prominent examples of the isolated and yet surprisingly amplified argument.

[22] Adam Prezworksi, Capitalism and Social Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 245

[23] It is also a form of formal idealism often lacking any analysis of materialist causality.

[24] Andrew Romano, “New Yahoo News/YouGov Poll Shows Sanders’s Strength Going Head-to-Head with Rivals,” Yahoo! News, February 14, 2020, https://news.yahoo.com/new-yahoo-news-you-gov-poll-shows-sanderss-strength-going-head-to-head-with-rivals-181522968.html

[25] Melissa Naschek, “The Identity Mistake,” Jacobin, August 28, 2018, https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/08/mistaken-identity-asaid-haider-review-identity-politics;

[26] Karl Marx, ed. Robert C. Tucker, The Marx-Engels Reader, 2nd Edition (New York” W. W. Norton & Company, 1978), 500.

[27] An increasingly, although not surprisingly given the above arguments, ill-defined category that in some media accounts comically stretches to people in their 40s or even 50s.

[28] See Marx, Capital Vol. 1, chapters 14-15; 32, etc.

[29] Akela Lacy and Ryan Grim, “Pork Plant Workers Turn Out for Sanders in First Caucus in Iowa, The Intercept, February 3, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/02/03/iowa-first-caucus-satellite-pork-plant-workers/

[30] C.f. Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”