Feature

A generation keen on selling

Their “ideal social form” is the small business, and they aspire to launch food carts, techie startups, and socially responsible companies, said William Deresiewicz at The New York Times.

William Deresiewicz
The New York Times

The hippies had love, the punks had rage, and the slackers had angst, said William Deresiewicz. But the abiding characteristic of today’s youth is the polite and earnest “affect of the salesman.” Call them Generation Sell. Their “ideal social form” is the small business, and they aspire to launch food carts, techie startups, and socially responsible companies. Growing up as they did in the “heroic age of dot-com entrepreneurship,” it makes sense that they’ve come to regard the business plan as the “characteristic art form of our age” and Steve Jobs as the resident deity.

But their entrepreneurial idealism extends to their personalities. They are “low-key, self-deprecating, post-ironic, eco-friendly,” and motivated by a constant desire to make themselves more pleasing to others. They have, in other words, a “commercial personality,” and they’re not alone. We’ve all come to “treat ourselves like little businesses, something to be managed and promoted.” The entrepreneurial impulse may stem from the young hipsters, but at the end of the day, we’re all selling something: ourselves.

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