Date of Degree

9-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Sociology

Advisor

Lynn Chancer

Committee Members

Patricia Ticineto Clough

Thomas DeGloma

Mike Benediktsson

Subject Categories

Community-Based Research | Educational Sociology | Inequality and Stratification | Race and Ethnicity | Sociology of Culture | Work, Economy and Organizations

Keywords

new york city, millennials, post-millennials, social mobility, american dream, capitalism

Abstract

This dissertation examines the experiences of the “Post-Millennial” (those born after 1996) and “Millennial” (those born between 1981 - 1996) generations, as they pursue their dreams of studying, working and living in New York City. According to Karl Mannheim’s (1923) classic formulation, a “generation” can be perceived as a particular type of social location typified by common “patterns of experience and thought”. Through seventy-five in-depth interviews, the qualitative data revealed a social location characterized by a common pattern of “time is money” – as the German theorist Georg Simmel (1903) postulated more than a century ago – and stress as post-millennials and millennials pursue American success in the context of an expensive and competitive New York City. The interviews conducted reveal that for these new American generations, New York City is culturally understood as a “Dream City” where an “urban American Dream” can be achieved. As these dreams are pursued, a multitude of uncertainties and challenges are navigated across school, work, and housing in a period of early 21st century neoliberal capitalism. The interviewees commonly spoke about their challenges as centered in questions of time, money, freedom, and success. As they offered narratives about their personal lives, a cultural language on feeling stressed, alienated and loneliness arose. I anticipated previously that I would discover high levels of anxiety, but this book revealed the operation of stress in young people’s everyday lives. The lived experiences of post-millennials and millennials in “Dream City” provide evidence that the American zeitgeist is a zeitgeist of stress due to the cultural pursuit of success.

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