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Next, edited by Eric Liu

- Abstract

“Baby bust,” “Boomerang,” “New Lost Generation”—these are some of the more unflattering labels affixed to the 80 million Americans born between 1961 and 1981, otherwise known as “Generation X,” an epithet lifted from the title of a 1991 novel by one of their chroniclers, Douglas Coupland.

Various cover stories in various magazines—among them Time, Fortune, and the Atlantic—have attempted to delve into the character of Generation X, and movies like Singles and this year’s Reality Bites have been hailed for capturing its dating and mating habits, its career aspirations (such as they are), and its outlook on life. And for every sympathetic portrayal there is another that is considerably less so. Thus, these young people have been described as a collection of selfish whiners, complaining about the deficit and a tight job market even as they come of age in a period of relative peace and prosperity. Others go a step further, arguing that prolonged exposure to MTV has left an entire generation spiritually lobotomized.

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