For decades, men have adapted poorly to the shifting demands of the service economy. Now they are paying the price. For decades, the working-class social fabric has been fraying. Now the working class is in danger of descending into underclass-style dysfunction. For decades, young people have been living in a loose, under-institutionalized world. Now they are moving back home in droves.
—David Brooks: NYT. Brooks reflects on the current malaise through the prism of Don Peck’s piece in The Atlantic, narrows the discussion to “America’s social weak spots,” and identifies three areas of strain: the shift to a service economy; the social fabric of the working class; and the position of “young people” in an “under-institutionalized world.” His response intimates a massive social engineering project: “redefine masculinity”; vast “anti-poverty programs”; and “institutions for unaffiliated 24-year-olds”. Brooks clearly advocates an optimistic approach to mending these three “weak spots,” but the real question will be whether one can engineer a solution or if society’s responsive mutations will form something itself. Just as the old saw about free-will demands one consider whether one chose to go to work today or if it was the world that chose for you, we will see just how intentional we can be about firming up these weak-spots. Afterall, Germany’s Weimar Republic arguably suffered from similar issues with masculinity, poverty, and institutions for young people.