The life cycle is imagined and experienced differently by different generations. Fifty years ago, young Americans went onto the streets hoping not to live lives of complacent satisfaction like their parents. Today, young Americans fear that they will not be able to live lives of complacent satisfaction like their parents. The sixties generation strongly felt they had more open possibilities than their elders. Today, the children of successful professionals, at least, suspect that their parents have more live options than do they. There is perhaps no point in rebelling against the status quo today because the world is changing too fast to keep up with, much less to try to change. Could not the desire to grow up too fast (to become instantly rich and retire at 32) be a greater problem today than the desire not to grow up? Might not today’s cult of youth be more closely associated with the longevity fantasies of the aging than with the revolutionary fervor of the biologically young? Isn’t the premature fatalism of the young a greater problem than their refusal to grow up or the “60 is the new 40” fantasies of their parents? And isn’t the contrary experience of the life cycle a major obstacle to communication among generations today?
Stephen Holmes is Walter E. Meyer Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law. He received a MA, MPhil and in 1976 a PhD, all from Yale University. From 1989 to 1997 he was Professor of Polit-ical Science and Law at the University of Chicago Law School, and Professor of Politics at Princeton University in 1997. Since 1997 he is Professor of Law at the New York University. In 1991/92 and in 2000/01 he was fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and he was named a Carnegie Scholar in 2003-2005 for his work on Russian legal reform. His publications include Passions and Constraint: On the Theory of Liberal Democracy (1995); The Cost of Rights: Why Liberty Depends on Taxes (with Cass R. Sunstein, 1998) and The Matador’s Cape: America’s Reckless Response to Terror (2007).