The False Promise of Generational Politics

The False Promise of Generational Politics

The history of the last half-millennium can be written as the story of rising classes, each pronouncing itself a universal class that embodies the general good. More narrowly, just as Virginia gentlemen stressed the virtues of breeding and farmers extolled the virtues of the rural life, the young, highly educated professionals—a few years ago derided by the neoconservatives as the “New Class” but now renamed the “Yuppies”—insist that their meritocratically confirmed “intelligence” is the primary requisite for governing. The claim that their interests represent the general interest is particularly strong among New Class baby boomers because at each stage of their lives whatever they needed, from child rearing to school construction to draft avoidance, has forced itself on the national agenda. At each stage politicians and ad men have seen those needs as vehicles for their own careers.

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