A timely jolt

Jilted Generation, by Ed Howker and Shiv Malik (Icon Books), reviewed by Adam Ramsay

March 6, 2011 · 2 min read

If you were born after September 1979, you are a member of the jilted generation, or so Shiv Malik and Ed Howker tell us in their book of the same name. They fill it with shocking facts, such as that 29 per cent of adult men under 35 still live with their parents. This generation earns less than its parents did – in fact, many are forced to work for free simply to get job experience. These facts are weaved together with an angry, punchy prose into a narrative that shows how a generation has been jilted.

The authors have clearly got some of their analysis right: in particular, that neoliberal capitalism has failed to plan for the future. The generation who were persuaded that greed was good were conned into stealing from their own children. But, crucially, Howker and Malik’s failure to deal with class weakens the book. And ultimately their statement that they support capitalism – albeit a form that requires rooted capital, mutuals, and community land banks – means they miss the roots of many of the problems they describe.

Since the book was written, the comprehensive spending review has re-confirmed its central narrative – because although the cuts are an assault on us all, the young will be hit harder than any other age group. In recent months, the false consensus of a generation’s apathy has also been shattered; that people under 35 are a jilted generation is no longer an interesting but intangible academic injustice. This book gives the hard statistics to demonstrate that young people are right to feel we’ve got a raw deal.

And so, while this book doesn’t tell the whole truth, it does tell a truth. And the truth that it tells is the one you will hear shouted on the streets of London and from occupied lecture theatres and classrooms across the country.


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