March 5th, 2015
Episode 120 of 248 episodes
Political scientists and lawyers have had their chance to diagnose the causes of the obvious ills in the American body politic, and to write some prescriptions. It’s high time to give some other faculties a chance. In this week’s podcast, we talk to a psychologist, Dr. Jean Twenge, of San Diego State University and the author of “Generation Me.” Twenge’s research often involves psychological differences between generations. Her writings are smart, thought provoking and very in tune with the times. One research finding we talk about in the podcast is that the well-documented decline in the trust Americans have in government and big institutions mirrors a decline in trust we have for each other. We just generally trust people less than we have in the recent past. So which is the chicken and which is the egg, less trust in people or in “the system”? It is all scrambled. Twenge suspects that a big part of this change is that Americans’ identity – our sense of individualism – is much less bound up in belonging to community, traditions, institutions and groups than it used to be. If that’s the case, it makes sense that we are more alienated from politics and government. Twenge has found this trend is exaggerated among young people, which is depressing. Millennials, she says, are especially uninterested in the civic world around them and less idealistic. And she says they have good reason.