The millennial generation is a threat to the workplace, but not because of any generalized traits or stereotypes. Instead, the millennial generation is a threat to the workplace because I have a faith in my peers to stand up for justice, even in the workplace.
The workplace is not abstracted from its interpenetration with a capitalist economy, ruled by corporations which effectively function as a monopoly. This reality, corporate capitalism, as it intersects with social policy, affords corporations personhood and necessarily contributes to the exploitation of the poor and inevitably also the continued enslavement of people of color, the working class, women (especially trans women), and disabled people to a coercive economy of capital.
I have faith in my peers to recognize the evils of capitalism and oppose them in every way they can—including the workplace. What will that look like? I am not exactly sure. It could involve protests and strikes; it could involve exploiting loopholes in contracts with corporations. All in all, we are a threat to the workplace because we have access to more information at a quicker rate than past generations, and thus we are earnestly pressed to be aware of the evils capitalism perpetuates.
How our threat to the workplace manifests is one we decide—both individually and collectively. If we truly care for the poor, we will stop putting band-aids on a cancerous tumor and, alongside them, revolt against the oppressive system called capitalism, which creates and benefits from “healthy” poverty. The workplace is an extension of the cotton fields, where work is compulsory if we desire to live; we do not fairly reap the benefits of our work. We are alienated from our work. We may create or provide something as employees, but we can never say “that is ours.”
One day we will create or provide things and be able to say “I did that” without the bourgeoisie usurping our agency for their own gain. In the words of Marx and Engels: “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.” I pray that work might one day be enjoyable, non-alienated, and not considered “work” in the same way it is today.
We are a threat to a threatening environment. Not only is capitalism a ubiquitous, omniscient demon (“All hail the Free Market!”), but the current social order fosters an inherently threatening workplace for entire groups of people—the poor are paid as little as possible, trans people are endangered by transphobia in the workplace, people of color are disproportionately paid less and face dangers as well, and women are still underpaid and stigmatized in the workplace. Our threat lies in our potentiality to rise up against the current social order and that is a very good and hopeful thing.
[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]Woefully Weak
Today, infinite knowledge lies within our finger tips, communication with almost anyone anywhere is instantly possible, the world can be circumnavigated in a few hours, and the limits of science appear endless. Yet, the majority of college graduates today are no more a threat to the workforce than any of the generations were before them.
To be a threat to the workforce, the millennial generation would have to offer something different than what is already in place, and this is not the case.
Yes, millennials are familiar with cutting-edge technology; yes, they can navigate through endless information; yes, they have attended a four-year university; yes, they have huge networks of connections; yes, they are highly creative, self-reliant and driven. But no, what they offer is nothing new.
Cultures have always prepared their young to replace the aging workforce. In the West, most people worked on farms, then they switched to factories, then to the service industries. Society creates new jobs and the young are raised to fulfill them. The analysis of the worker as a “cog in the wheel,” or a small part in a machine, characterizes this situation well.
Most millennials entering the workforce today are just cogs in the wheel. Yes, the context has changed but the characteristics of the worker are the same: they are raised to fulfill the jobs society has created. The problem is not necessarily the jobs themselves (though they may be an issue too), but they are taken without the worker ever stopping to ask: what is the point?
Motives are unexamined and ends are unconsidered, and the worker finds him or herself serving a system that lets them survive but never flourish, labor but never find meaning in their work outside of daily subsistence. Evidence for this general lack of purposefulness is seen in most college curriculums today. Students can graduate without ever reading a book from cover to cover during their time at school. They can get by through reading the bolded letters in the back of their textbooks and the notes in the margins of its pages. They are taught to memorize facts without ever considering the meaning of all their work.
What would really threaten the workforce today is a change of heart. Once the masses stop serving Mammon as their king, once the idols of careers, status, comfort and comparison are destroyed, then the social order will truly be threatened. Until then, it is like a wise man once said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Until then, everything is vanity. Until then, all will be the same.