The Making of an Elder Culture: Reflections on the Future of America's Most Audacious Generation
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"It is a brilliant and highly original thesis. I commend Roszak for writing the book." - Tom Pochari, World Affairs Monthly
The Summer of Love. Vietnam. Woodstock. These are the milestones of the baby boomer generation Theodore Roszak chronicled in his 1969 breakthrough book The Making of a Counter Culture. Part of an unprecedented longevity revolution, those boomers form the most educated, most socially conscientious, politically savvy older generation the world has ever seen. And they are preparing for Act Two.
The Making of an Elder Culture reminds the boomers of the creative role they once played in our society and of the moral and intellectual resources they have to draw upon for radical transformation in their later years. Seeing the experience of aging as a revolution in consciousness, it predicts an “elder insurgency” where boomers return to take up what they left undone in their youth. Freed from competitive individualism, military-industrial bravado, and the careerist rat race, who better to forge a compassionate economy? Who better positioned not only to demand Social Security and Medicare for themselves, but to champion “Entitlements for Everyone”? Fusing the green, the gray, and the just, Eldertown can be an achievable, truly sustainable future.
Part demographic study, part history, part critique, and part appeal, Theodore Roszak’s take on the imminent transformation of our world is as wise as it is inspired—and utterly appealing.
Theodore Roszak is the author of fifteen books, including the 1969 classic The Making of a Counter Culture. He is professor emeritus of history at California State University, and lives in Berkeley, California.
movement, but there were not many others of his age who were asked to share the stage. After all, the prevailing image of old people then was both sad and comic. They were crabby, hopelessly conservative layabouts who used up their time playing canasta, lounging on the sunny beaches of Florida, or strolling the golf course. The slur became so commonplace by the late 1980s that the New Republic, a reasonably liberal weekly, felt free to illustrate critical reports on Social Security with images of
elder culture we will be exploring in these pages is not the outgrowth of a well-defined social philosophy, much less is it a blueprint for the future. Like the counter culture of the 1960s and 1970s on which it draws in spirit and for ideas, it is a surprising proliferation of divergent values that emerge from a new demographic reality. Far from being a detailed agenda ordered up by a political movement or an ideological faction, it is the way in which our lives are being reconfigured by the
more than men who are suffering the pressure of home-based caregiving. While caregivers come in many shapes and sizes, their gender is all but uniform. Ninety-nine percent of paid caregivers today are women, most of them ethnic minorities who earn minimum wage and have no benefits. As for the country’s unpaid caregivers, they are also overwhelmingly female. For the most part, they are middle-aged women, hidden away in the privacy of their homes, working for no pay at all at a task of the most
profits from public scrutiny. All this is what preoccupies the most richly rewarded people in our society. For every useful, helpful, life-enhancing project they undertake (there are always a few), there are a hundred schemes and scams that serve only to keep the wealth trickling up. Has anyone on any board of directors of any major corporation ever looked around the table and said, “God! Aren’t we pathetic!”? The Soul of the System When we debate institutions and social programs, almost
generation. Perhaps I would have viewed the youthful disaffiliation of the time differently, and probably with less hope of rapid social change, if I could have foreseen how many members of the younger generation would eventually wind up as cultural conservatives or evangelical Christians, how many would settle for lucrative business careers, how many would find the thrill of a lifetime at a NASCAR rally. In all the generalizations and high hopes I offer here, I have tried to remember that