The elders are disappearing, largely lost to us already.
As the 1968 generation busily concerned themselves with fomenting a particular sort of cultural change, they didn’t in all their naiveté realize that they were in fact:
- Decoupling capital from the last remaining check on it—the experienced individual who understands the difference between price (exchange value) and value (use value).
- Losing, along with the coercive embeddedness of ascribed identity the deeper freedoms of mentorship and inherited self-understanding.
As a result, the role and image of the adult has been transformed—from that of the guarantor of cultural transmission, survival, and embeddedness (we no longer even pretend to expect the university to do this; there is simply insufficient value—that is to say, exchange value—in it) to that of the jaded asset wielder and financial literate.
This jadedness is compulsory for the attribution to be granted, as it marks the key difference between the “old adult” and the “new adult” who possesses (as this “jadedness”) a complete, willed-if-not-innate blindness to use values that are not also exchange values, as these are deleterious to efficient profit and control.
Hence the evolution of the question, from “Do you have children?” to “Are you a parent?” to “Are you financially secure enough to make the life choices you’d prefer to make?” and the evolution in understandings—i.e. in which answers to which of these questions equates with “maturity” and thus social status.
Note the subtle shifts in which things are central to the discussion and in which things are incidental to it—not to mention the shift in the subject(s) and object(s) of history. The freedom won in the culture wars largely comprises:
- The freedom to consume
- if certain subtle conditions of self-abnegation have been met
- these consisting primarily of the reduction of all value to price
- including, covertly, the value of oneself—
- and—no small thing—the gradual, anything-but-accidental loss of figures not in thrall to this freedom.
The giants of the past are gone because the traditional conception of adulthood was orthogonal to the project of harnessing of all of history to be a machinery regime for maximally efficient commerce; the forces of capital, astute as they are, saw an opening in the marriage of a particular historical configuration of youthful utopianism and communication and transportation (e.g. exchange) technologies. The seized upon it and were successful.
The rest is merely accounting and bookkeeping.