Share or Die: Generation Y Paves a New Path

"Share or Die" takes a look into a growing number of Generation Y experimenters abandoning the outdated corporate ladder for a lattice lifestyle and shows how you can join, too.

| June 2013

From urban Detroit to central Amsterdam, and from worker co-operatives to nomadic communities, an astonishing variety of Generation Y recent graduates and 20-something experimenters are finding (and sharing) their own answers to negotiating the new economic order. Their visions of a shared future include: collaborative consumption networks instead of private ownership, replacing the corporate ladder with a "lattice lifestyle", and Do-it-yourself higher education. As a call-to-action, Share or Die (New Society Publishers, 2012), edited by Malcolmge Harris and Neal Georenflo, doesn't only refer to resource depletion, disappearing jobs or stagnating wages. It refers to social death too, and to finding the common-sense ideas and practices needed to not only merely survive, but to build a place where it's worth living.  

When the class of 2012 throw their caps in the air, most won’t have job offers waiting for them. Instead, many graduates will prepare to move back home with their parents, to take yet another unpaid internship or to accept any old job that will help pay off their student loans. 

The bubbles burst  

It was an entirely different scene when we graduated from Middlebury College on May 27, 2007. On that day, the Dow Jones was at a high of 13,507 points, and climbing. Bill Clinton, the commencement speaker, gently reminded us to be mindful of people in our society and around the world who haven’t been blessed with the many gifts we had been given (“the gift of a fine mind, the gift of a chance to be here, the gift of all the choices you have when you leave”). We tried our best at humility while taking in his grave, important words, but it was hard to contain the aura of invincibility and optimism in the air. The world was ours for the conquering. And in just a short while, many of our classmates were going to cash in their college credentials for real world currency: entry-level jobs.



The most praised of our peers were heading into lucrative corporate jobs as management consultants, bankers, analysts and paralegals. They were going to work for prestigious firms in exciting cities: McKinsey in Boston, Sullivan & Cromwell in New York, J.P. Morgan in London. Quite a few of our classmates signed on with Lehman Brothers. (Dick Fuld, the company’s CEO, was also listening to Bill Clinton speak on that intermittently rainy day in May—his son was graduating too.) As at most selective institutions that year, post-college chatter centered around signing bonuses and apartment-hunting plans.

And then there were the two of us. We were despondent. Neither of us had a job. This was over a year and a half before the sudden collapse of Lehman Brothers and the financial meltdown, so there were plenty of jobs out there. We had opportunities; we just hadn’t signed on any dotted line. So why the graduation-day sulking?