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Gen-Z and Late Stage Capitalism

JT of Class Conciousness Project

Nov 20, 2023

A TikTok video went viral in October as a young woman showed clear distress as she recounted her experiences of her first 9-5 job

An article in the New York Post, published on 21st April 2023, stated that a report on Generation Z, better known as Gen-Z, were the most difficult group of workers to manage and to work with. The article, which was sourced from a report compiled by, was based on a survey of 1,344 managers and ‘business leaders’ in the United States on the attitudes of workers born after 1997.

It was revealed that:

  • Half of respondents said that Gen-Z people were ‘difficult to work with’ all or most of the time

  • Key reasons for this assessment of Gen-Z people included a lack of technological skills, as well as a lack of effort and motivation to work

  • A third of respondents who said that they found Gen-Z staff difficult also stated that they prefer to employ ‘millennials’ – people who were born between the early 1980s and late 1990s

  • 1 in 8 of respondents stated that they had sacked a Gen-Z member of staff within a week of them starting – roughly another 1 in 8 of respondents said that they had sacked a Gen-Z person within a month

Social media is replete with videos of Gen-Z people bemoaning the harsh realities of 21st-century life. In October 2023, a TikToker called Brielle, who moved to New Jersey to start her first job in New York since leaving college, achieved notoriety when she recorded and uploaded a video in which she detailed her arduous commute and the facts that she had little free time to go to the gym, cook her dinner or to have a relationship. Brielle garnered mixed responses to her video: Some called for a four-day week and greater opportunities to work from home, while others suggested that Brielle was being given an object lesson in the harsh realities of modern life and the grind of the 9 to 5.

A year ago, another member of Gen-Z called Avery uploaded a video recorded from a break room in a branch of Starbucks, where they spoke through their tears on how they needed to unionise, how understaffed that they were in their workplace, how rude the customers could be and how arduous their 25-hour work week was. Again, the responses were mixed – much like with Brielle, some suggested that Avery’s experiences showed that real affirmative action should be taken to make workplaces more welcoming to all, while others made reference to people who worked far longer hours in far tougher professions as an example that Avery’s accounts were evidence of their somewhat cosseted life.

The easy option when assessing the cases of Brielle and Avery, and many others like them, and an option that has already been taken by conservative commentators in the United States, is to criticise them as individuals: The reality of modern life is that many people work in jobs that they hate, doing hours that are too long in locations that are too far from home, yet don’t make for the break room to cry into their iPhones. While this is true, we believe that Gen-Z people are the most stark and obvious manifestation of the deleterious effect that late-stage capitalism has had on human beings.

Gen-Z is defined as people who were born between the years 2000 and 2005. These would be the first generation of people who have been raised in the ‘smartphone’ era, which started in earnest in 2007 with the release of the original iPhone. Smartphones have changed the behaviours of people of all ages, none of them for the better, but they have particularly affected Gen-Z in that they have been the first generation to be given smartphones and tablets when they were still children. They will also have been the first generation of children whose parents are distracted by smartphones and tablets, and the first generation of children who will have gained access to social media, instant-messaging services and largely unfettered access to harmful media like pornography.

The huge proliferation of smartphones and tablets has led to a generation of people far more detached and atomised from their peers than previous generations: Gen-Z people are far more likely to ‘socialise’ through their devices than by face-to-face contact, communication is more often by text message, or its equivalent through social media, than it is by verbal contact and many have not and do not intend to embark on relationships.

Gen-Z is also one of the most medicated groups of people in society, particularly in the United States, which does not have a health service, only a health industry. A report compiled by Harmony Healthcare IT stated that over 60% of Gen-Z people have medically-diagnosed anxiety, while half of this number suffered a panic attack at least once a month. Almost everyone who was surveyed stated that key triggers of their anxieties were due to the uncertainties of the future, while just under half said that their precarious financial positions were a cause for their anxiety. The most common medication for medically-diagnosed anxiety are SSRIs – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which increase the level of serotonin on the basis that there is a chemical imbalance in the brain, a basis that is disputed. They also come with a huge and varied list of harmful side-effects, including agitation, loss of sex drive, erectile dysfunction, weight gain or weight loss and insomnia.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is diagnosed in almost 10%, or six million, of all American children between the ages of 3 and 17, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures. Of these six million children, two thirds are co-diagnosed with other conditions, including behavioural and conduct problems, anxiety, depression and autism. The most common medication given to children diagnosed with ADHD is methylphenidate, better known by the brand name Ritalin, while another drug administered to children suffering from ADHD is Adderal. Both these drugs come with varied and similar side-effects, including anxiety, loss of appetite, involuntary muscle movement, fever and nausea. The percentage of young people diagnosed with ADHD in the United States has increased from around 6% in 1997 to almost 10% today, with the worldwide average reckoned to be at around 5%.

Gen-Z as a generation has grown up through a series of crises of varying degrees of seriousness. In the United States, the election of Donald Trump in 2016 triggered in the liberal elite what has been coined as ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’: from conspiracies on Russian electoral interference, to the mass media pumping out co-ordinated and closely scripted anti-Trump rhetoric, to the political class examining the practicalities of deposing Trump from office using the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution. The years 2016 to 2020 were marked with a United States ruling class and deep state having a four-year fit as it tried to find ways to discredit, undermine and eventually overthrow US imperialism’s worst conceivable salesman.

In 2016, Britain’s referendum decision to leave the European Union in the biggest single democratic exercise ever seen in this nation sent huge sections of the ruling class into complete meltdown, along with their servants in the liberal elite and substantial parts of the labour movement. The referendum result was the culmination of almost twenty years of our political class’s arrogance and contempt towards the working class: Their continued suppression of workers’ wages, their perpetual drive to force millions of working class people into debt and, when they did, the crashing of the economy in 2008 led to the imposition of swingeing public spending cuts and ideologically-driven austerity at a time when the working class could least bear that burden.

The following three and a half years were marked by the ruling class doing everything in its power to delay, derail and destroy the Brexit result. The liberal elite proclaimed that the country had been plunged into a neo-fascist nightmare by a feckless and bigoted working class, who they preferred to label as stupid rather than understand why they had voted the way that they did. Some, including leftist commentators like Owen Jones, even went to the trouble to deny that the working class even existed in the first place.

The period of June 2016 to the beginning of 2020 was dominated by a weak Government weakening its position further by calling an election in 2017 and almost losing it entirely to a resurgent Jeremy Corbin-led Labour Party. A fragile coalition between the Tories and the Democratic Unionists limped along for the next two years until Boris Johnson called, and won, another General Election in 2019 by exploiting Labour’s disastrous position on Brexit, a position which was chiefly the brainchild of Sir Keir Starmer and his free-market liberal cohorts in the Party and the labour movement.

State responses to Covid during 2020 have also had a deeply deleterious effect on Gen-Z. Western Governments plunged their citizenry into brutal lockdowns, closing schools, colleges and universities and forcing millions of children and young people into learning from home. Teaching unions across the western world, particularly in the US and UK, prioritised leveraging lockdowns to win concessions over continuing the education of children and supporting working class families, most of whom have parents working in jobs which continued unaltered through lockdowns, leaving many children facing months of piecemeal education and with face-to-face interaction with their peers, vital for their own social development, severely restricted.

Western Government’s responses to Covid led to hundreds of thousands of young people to drop out of the labour market as cinemas, restaurants, pubs and coffee shops were forced into closure, with thousands more people currently considering their futures. It can be argued that, for many Gen-Z people, their forced removal from their jobs gave them an opportunity to reflect on the poor hours, poor pay and poor prospects that these jobs offered. For many, unemployment became a very tempting proposition in comparison to the often very poor service-sector jobs that they had, a damning indictment in itself.

Add into the mix the fact that the ruling class are fully behind the climate change narrative and tacitly support the actions of doom-mongering groups like Just Stop Oil, who claim that the human race will be plunged into an existential crisis unless we revert to a lifestyle akin to the middle-ages and it is clear why a group who have seen arguably more crises in the last seven years than any generation since World War II are so depressed and anxious at what the future holds for them.

As the Communist Manifesto said in 1848 “All that is sacred melts into air, all that is sacred is profaned”: As the capitalist system runs out of gas and clambers desperately for its very survival, Gen-Z people are the most extreme manifestation of the devastating effects that capitalism has on human beings. They are atomised, anxious, depressed and heavily medicated and see no hope of any change to their circumstances for the better in the future.

Only socialism can truly bring hope to people: The hope of a stable, rewarding and dignified life, both in work and in their retirement, the hope of just rewards for their labour, a decent home that they can afford and the opportunities to learn new skills and to truly flourish as human beings.

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