Skip to main content

About this book

This book provides a cultural studies analysis of Millennials and their impact on American culture and society. Beginning with an introduction that touches upon which part of the population is described as Millennial, the book also explores the Millennial psyche, marketing to Millennials, Millennials’ purchasing preferences, gender and sexuality among Millennials, and Millennials and their relation to postmodernism, among other things. Cultural Perspectives on Millennials is designed for students taking courses in cultural studies, sociology, American studies and related fields. It is written in an accessible style and makes use of numerous quotations from writers and thinkers who have written about Millennials. It is illustrated by the author.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Introduction

This chapter describes Millennials Millennialsand asks why they are of interest and whether there are important differences between different kinds of Millennials. It offers statistics about the amount of time Millennials spend with social media as compared to other generations. It offers a number of lists describing the different generations and concludes that Millennials are persons (in 2015) who are between eighteen and thirty-four years of age. Then it discusses the notion that marketers see Millennials as “trailblazers” who may be setting new courses for older generations to follow. It concludes with statistics about Millennials gathered from various sources.

Arthur Asa Berger

Chapter 2. The Mind and Psyche of Millennials

In this chapter I deal with the psychological makeup of Millennials. I discuss FreudFreud, Sigmund’s topographic hypothesis about the unconsciousPsychoanalytic Theoryunconscious, preconsciousPsychoanalytic Theorypreconscious and consciousnessPsychoanalytic Theoryconsciousness, and the role of the unconscious in our lives. I also discuss Freud’s structural hypothesis about the id, ego and superego and their role in our behavior, his ideas about the Oedipus complex and his book on group analysis and the ego. This sets the stage for a discussion of narcissism and Millennials. Are they more narcissistic than other generations? And what impact does narcissism have on Millennials? I then deal with a discussion of the “Millennial Mind” and helicopter parents. This leads to a treatment of Omar MateenMateen, Omar, a Millennial who massacred 49 people in Orlando, Florida on June 17, 2016. I conclude with a discussion of Millennials as fathers.

Arthur Asa Berger

Chapter 3. A SociologySociology of Millennials

This chapter starts with a discussion of the relationship between individuals and society and with marketer/psychoanalyst Clotaire RapailleRapaille, Clotaire’s theory about the way children are “imprinted” by their societies between the age of one and seven. Next I deal with the ideas of Karl MannheimMannheim, Karl who focused attention on the social origins of thought. This is followed by a discussion of Gustave LeBonLeBon, Gustav’s classic book The CrowdCrowd and how his ideas relate to our interest in Millennials. This leads to a discussion the Claritas typology which posits that there are sixty-six different kinds of Americans; this suggests there are different ways of thinking about people other than in terms of generations. Next, I discuss the economic status of Millennials and the fact that while many of them are financially stressed, some of them are quite wealthy.

Arthur Asa Berger

Chapter 4. Myth and Millennials

MythsMyths are defined and their role in our thinking and behavior is discussed. It is suggested that myths play a larger role in our lives than we recognize. The myth of Cronus is told, and it is suggested that it helps us understand Millennial behavior. This leads to a description of a “myth modelMythsmyth model” which focuses attention on the role of myth in psychoanalytic theory, history, elite culture, popular culture and everyday life. The myth of CronusMythsCronus, the god of time, is used in the myth model to help us understand the roots of Millennial behavior. It concludes with a discussion of the ideas of Erich FrommFromm, Erich who has a theory of “social character” that can be used to understand Millennials better.

Arthur Asa Berger

Chapter 5. Millennials and the Media

The subject of this chapter is how Millennials use the media and how the media attempt to use Millennials. It starts with a discussion of Millennials and social mediasocial media and offers a discussion by a psychiatrist, David BrunskillBrunskill, David, of the negative impact social media have on people, what he calls the “net effectsocial medianet effect.” Research suggests there may be a relationship between social networking and narcissism. An overview of Millennials and media is offered, and Millennials’ role as “digital natives” is discussed. This leads to a discussion of Millennials and “virtual communities.” Next, there is a description of theHikikomoriHikikomori problem—troubled Millennials—in Japan. Will American Millennials end up like them? A discussion of the “Generation C”Millennials“Generation C” segment of Millennials and their use of social media follows. The question of addiction to media is discussed, which is followed by a section on affluent Millennials and their use of social media and of the “overuse” of social media by Millennials of all kinds.

Arthur Asa Berger

Chapter 6. Marketing to Millennials

Marketers are interested in Millennials because they are a huge market, and understanding how they think is important to marketers and advertisers. There are an estimated seventy to eighty million Millennials and their purchasing power is very large. How they shop is of considerable interest to marketers, who wish to find and engage with them. The chapter offers various strategies for engaging with them. One marketer offers a typology with twelve different kinds of Millennials, which means marketing to them is a complicated matter.Grid-group theoryGrid-group theory is used to suggest another typology, with four “lifestyles” for Millennials: egalitariansGrid-group theoryegalitarians, elitistsGrid-group theoryelitists, individualistsGrid-group theoryindividualists, and fatalistsGrid-group theoryfatalists. Social anthropologist Mary DouglasDouglas, Mary is quoted suggesting that unconscious imperatives in each of the four lifestyles shapes the consumption practices of Millennials. The chapter ends with a discussion of the impact Millennials have had on traditional advertising practices.

Arthur Asa Berger

Chapter 7. Millennials as Shoppers and Consumers

The focus shifts now from marketers to Millennials as shoppers and consumers. Millennialsas shoppers and consumers.It turns out that they love diamonds and buy more diamonds than any other generation—perhaps because they are young and are getting engaged more than members of other generations. They are “core customers” of fast food restaurants but do not like Big Macs and are switching their allegiance to “fast casual” restaurants. They also like to clip coupons and show a preference for small grocery stores like Trader Joe’s instead of big box stores. They also like news but don’t wish to pay for it by purchasing newspapers. They keep up with the news by using the Internet, social media, and television news shows such as those found on CNN. They also like name brands such as Nike, Apple, Samsung and Sony. This discussion is followed by a list of their favorite brands. The preferences of Millennials are important since they spend so much money on products and services.

Arthur Asa Berger

Chapter 8. Postmodernism and Millennials

The chapter compares postmodernismpostmodernism to modernismmodernism and suggests that postmodernism represents a “widespread cultural mutation” that has shaped human relations and modern societies. This occurred in the United States around 1960. It discusses the theory of “intertextuality,” which asserts that all texts are based, to varying degrees, on texts that preceded them, which weakens the modernist emphasis on originality. It is suggested that there is a strong connection between postmodernity and consumerism and that postmodernism’s delegitimation of authority, rationality and “grand theories” has had an impact on the thinking and behavior of Millennials. The chapter discusses Fredric JamesonJameson, Fredric’s notion that postmodernism is really a new form of capitalism and then suggests that Millennialspostmodernismand Millennials are the quintessential postmodern generation and Millennials are very different from their parents. The chapter offers a chart showing the differences between modernism and postmodernism in many different areas and discusses the fact that many Millennials were not raised with two parents, which may have had an impact on their psyches and behavior. The chapter then discusses the ideas found inJack SolomonJack Solomon’s The Signs of Our TimesThe Signs of Our Times and in my mystery novel Mistake in IdentityMistake in Identity, both of which are relevant to our understanding of postmodernism’s impact on Millennials. It concludes with a discussion of the role smartphones play in the lives of Millennials.

Arthur Asa Berger

Chapter 9. PoliticsMillennials Politics and Millennials

In this chapter, we find statistics showing that Millennials are either moderate (39%) or liberal (31%) in their politics, with relatively few (26%) describing themselves as conservative. The significance of these figures is obvious, as far as politics is concerned, but there is the question of how often Millennials vote in elections. There is also material about high school students now identifying as conservative, compared with earlier years. The statistics about liberal and conservative Millennials suggest we now have a politically polarized society. Statistics from a Los Angeles TimesLos Angeles Times poll shows that there is a correlation between the amount of education people have and their liberalism. It shows that almost fifty percent of people with high school or less education supported TrumpTrump, Donald J. while only 36.4% of those with college degrees or higher supported him. An article by Daniel J. ArbessArbess, Daniel J. that appeared in The Wall Street JournalWall Street Journal dealt with the question of why Millennials who supported Trump voted against their own interests? He suggested that they do not recognize the impact of their voting. This leads to a discussion of the Sanders’ campaign and speculations about why he was so popular with young people. This is followed by a discussion of Millennial voting patterns and statistics from a poll showing that 44% of Millennials saying they would vote either for the Green Party or a libertarian. Other statistics show that fifty percent of Millennials describe themselves as Independents. Though Millennials voted overwhelmingly for ClintonClinton, Hillary, they didn’t vote for her in large enough numbers to help her win. The chapter concludes with a discussion of Millennials in Britain, who voted in large numbers against the Prime Minister.

Arthur Asa Berger

Chapter 10. Sexual Identity, Gender and the Millennials

The chapter starts with a discussion of the notion that gendergender is socially constructedgendersocially constructed and open to choice. It discusses the ideas of Judith ButlerButler, Judith who sees gender as a kind of performancegenderas a kind of performance that can be changed according to the desires of individuals. This leads to a discussion of gender roles in society and the notion that they are not universal and not merely natural. It is estimated that there are around seven million LGBTQ Millennials in AmericagenderLGBTQ Millennials in America. Millennials, it is suggested, are much more supportive of gay marriage than the general population, and this is having an effect on society. The chapter concludes with a discussion of gender transformations, which have been taking place for many years.

Arthur Asa Berger

Chapter 11. Coda

In this chapter, we find a quotation from the novelist Robert MusilMusil, Robert about people’s life trajectories. He suggests that people often find themselves stuck like flies on what we might call the “flypaper of life,” with little chance of changing themselves. This notion contrasts with the American notion that we can always change ourselves and have a sense of infinite possibility. The chapter explores the impact that the eighty million Millennials have on American society and culture. It considers the curious fact that Millennials do not feel guilty about viewing pirated copies of films. Why is this the case? This leads to a discussion of the ideas of Michel FoucaulFoucaul, Michelt about how social change occurs. He argues that social change occurs when the codes that have traditionally shaped our behavior come into conflict with scientific and other theories, which leads to modifications and changes in the basic codes. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how Millennials, with their different codes from other generations, will shape American culture.

Arthur Asa Berger


Additional information