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There is something to be said for slackers.
Lisa Chamberlain explores how Generation X (roughly those between the ages of 28 and 42) have faced the onslaught of technological advances and globalization with an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit in her new book, “Slackonomics: Generation X in the Age of Creative Destruction” (DeCapo Press, 2008).
This story first appeared in the August 28, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Aimed at readers who understand family values from catching “The Simpsons” or “Married With Children,” “Slackonomics” uses pop culture references, such as pro skateboarder Tony Hawk’s unconventional, albeit lucrative, career path to illustrate how this demographic has found its way in the wake of Baby Boomers. “I purposely did not do a how-to book. I don’t have some grand zeitgeist thesis about how the vast majority of everyday life has changed as a result of these circumstances,” said Chamberlain.
“I like to say this is a generation that bridged the analog and the digital world and has made the most of it,” she continued. “They are very adaptive and creative with all these changing circumstances. They are not necessarily locked into any one way of thinking or any ideological camp. My hope is they will lead the way with the big issues that need to be dealt with like the economy and the environment. That’s the hopeful message; whether or not it will happen, I don’t know.”
Unlike previous generations, Gen X is not about to set aside their creative pursuits once they have a full-time job, a family or both. The post-work, have-a-seat-and-have-a-martini is not the end game for a group that thrives on creativity and individualistic thought, Chamberlain said. And not since the Industrial Revolution has a generation been so whipsawed by the economy, from McJobs to outsourcing, income inequality to back-to-back bubbles, she said.
The subtitle’s “creative destruction” references a concept developed by the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter that describes how capitalism renews itself through seemingly sudden economic convulsions. Aside from there being many Xers whose careers are a patchwork of pursuits — which are often more gratifying than profitable — there has been an uptick of people who are now using their career skills for good causes, and in some cases have decided to center their day jobs on those pursuits, Chamberlain said.
As the title suggests, there is a lot of slack in the economy that has given rise to Xers’ creativity and entrepreneurial pursuits. Of course, that slack can also lead to smacking the ground, something the book’s jacket — an illustration of a free-falling bungee jumper — she said.