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“The Myth of the Age of Entitlement” by James Cairn


The given paper reviews the book The Myth of the Age of Entitlement: Millennials, Austerity, and Hope by James Cairn. It impresses a reader by a usual perspective on the modern youth, or millennials, their lifestyle, opportunities, responsibilities, and problems. Unlike other authors, Cairn does not blame young people for too high expectations and multiple desires. On the contrary, he offers another perspective that demonstrates numerous limits that prevent millennials from evolving. In the essay, we analyze the basic ideas of the book and the authors perspectives on a new generation, the coherent society, its trends, features, and disputable aspects regarding such phenomena as globalization, work, healthcare, and their impact on the youth with the primary aim to understand the myth of the age of entitlement.

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Discussions about the current state of our society, its future, and opportunities and responsibilities millennials acquires the top priority nowadays. Additionally, globalization, drastic changes in the working environment, urbanization, and other factors peculiar to modern society preconditioned significant shifts in peoples mentalities and appearance of new tendencies. All these factors also stipulated the emergence of numerous problems with self-determination and a role a person should play in modern society.

Instead of being happy and enjoy the fruits of technological advances and civilization, people start losing motivation to move forward and evolve (Ventriglio & Bhugra, 2015). Additionally, the high level of expectations introduces additional pressure for representatives of a new generation. That is why we could observe numerous attempts to understand the nature of the processes that occur in the modern society today and realize how individuals could move further regarding numerous problems and barriers that are associated with the new era.

The Book

The book The Myth of the Age of Entitlement: Millennials, Austerity, and Hope by James Cairns is also devoted to the issue mentioned above. Being interested in the in-depth investigation of modern society and processes that precondition its development, he analyzes the environment in which people have to live nowadays. Cairns (2017) suggests the traditional perspective stating that in the age of entitlement young people can enjoy special treatment and can do everything they want staring from some work issues and ending with social life. However, the author is sure that this idea is a myth introduced to create decisive images of the future that awaits new generations.

In such a way, in the book, he tries to dispel this myth by exploring numerous aspects of the problem and trying to prove his assumption that in fact millennials are disentitled and have to live under the complex conditions of the modern age (Cairns, 2017). That is why the book becomes an important source that helps to acquire a new perspective on the current society and understand its features better.

Age of Entitlement

The first chapter gives tone to the whole book. Cairns cogitates about the so-called age of entitlement and its peculiarities. He depicts the myth saying that “young people today, more than at any point in history, take for granted the bounty theyve inherited and expect to have praise and a good life handed to them without having to do anything in return” (Cairns, 2017, p. 3). Three factors support this concept.

The first one is the unique entitlement of modern young people. The second one is an outstanding convenience and quality of millennials lives guaranteed by smartphones, TV, the Internet, etc. Finally, the myth is supported by the belief that the young generation demonstrates an outstanding narcissism that has never been seen before (Cairns, 2017). Using these three pieces of evidence, the majority concludes that the age of entitlement is already here. However, the author does not agree with this idea and tries to debunk the myth by providing facts that prove the complexity of modern society and numerous problems the youth or millennials have to face to survive and become successful.

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Revolving around the issue, a reader meets the term millennials that are used by the author to describe the modern generation with all its peculiarities and features. Nevertheless, it is also often referred to as the generation Y, or Net Generation, and could be defined as individuals who reached their adulthood in the 21st century and now are considered its main moving force (Cairns, 2017). The given description demonstrates the level of expectations and attitude to all representatives of this cohort.

Today, it is believed that they will not have to work hard to attain success because of a significant technological advance and increased convenience of the modern environment. At the same time, Cairns (2017) admits that a high level of expectations is followed by an uncensorious attitude towards their activity and lifestyle. In such a way, a particular conflict of generations could be observed. In the book, the author tries to explain the roots of this attitude and why millennials are doomed to face numerous problems in the future.


The first significant problem Cairns describes in the book is the high level of expectations and limited opportunities to achieve success because of oppressive entitlements and other challenges young people face. The fact is that modern society suggests specific requirements for young people for them to consider themselves successful and be able to evolve. At the same time, millennials are limited in development and tools they could use to achieve goals because of the high social pressure and lack of understanding among representatives of another generation. Cairns (2017) offers an example of a worker who created a story about his friends funeral just to have some free time to build a treehouse and relax.

At first gaze, this example perfectly demonstrates the nature of this very generation. However, there is another perspective on the issue that could be demonstrated by the scenario. The fact is that the majority of actions of this sort occur because of the professional burnout that happens among representatives of the Net Generation worryingly often. The author of the book is sure that it is the first of the signs that prove the mythic character of the age of entitlement.


Continuing cogitations about the issue, Cairns (2017) states that another problem is that “myth not only makes factual errors, but it delegitimizes the notion that young people are right to expect better than the status quo” (p.4). In other words, this myth cultivates the idea that people living in the age of opportunities have to lower their expectations to be appreciated by society. That is why numerous barriers to the development of the youth appear.

Today, millennials face such challenges as the decline of well-paid and secure jobs, benefits, and a pension, cuts in social services, an extremely high student debt, and poor ecology (Cairns, 2017). Under these conditions, the perspective which states that the greatest problem of modern youth is that they want too much seems ridiculous and mistaken. On the contrary, the most important issue of millennials is that they are blamed for their desire to move forward and are limited by numerous regulations, stereotypes, and socially accepted behaviors.


These limits seem especially dangerous regarding the tendency towards globalization and the appearance of a new unified society characterized by the emergence of a new culture that encompasses similar trends and attitudes to particular phenomena. Thus, the high speed of globalization is expected to facilitate the evolution of millennials and the appearance of new opportunities for their development. Unfortunately, it does not work.

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Cairns (2017) admits that the new globalized society introduces even more barriers for young people who want to evolve. For instance, austerity measures that could be analyzed regarding the above-mentioned trends for merging presuppose significant cutting on social spending. This tendency has a pernicious impact on the lives of individuals as they become deprived of any social protection and feeling of being safe. Moreover, globalization impacts labor relations which could not but impact millennials and their attitude to work. Observing alterations in other regions and realizing the fact that their opportunities are limited, and the situation is similar in different countries, young people start feeling depressed and doomed.


The book also touches upon such an important sphere as education. As it is already mentioned, it is expected that academic activity should acquire the top priority and become central to the society of the future. Moreover, everyone should be educated in a way that guarantees the ability to fit the future needs of the community. However, this idea creates the basis for the appearance of a critical problem.

The fact is that being educated with the central aim to fill a particular niche, millennials might suffer from the lack of choice and inability to fulfill their dreams and excel expectations. The overall rationalization of the education system impacts the youths selections. In other words, they nowadays prefer to select occupations that are well-paid, demanded, and do not require too much money for education. Otherwise, their student debts will increase significantly and create barriers for their further rise. In such a way, education becomes a disputable issue as it is not as ideal as it is expected and millennials are not provided with exceptional conditions for their further rise.

Work and Health

Work is another problem that is mentioned by Cairns. Staring the book with the example that describes the youths attitude to their job and issues they face, the author continues cogitation by saying that the significant decrease in well-paid and safe posts precondition rise of demotivated individuals who perform actions that do not satisfy them (Ventriglio & Bhugra, 2015).

Additionally, regarding the fact that work presupposes participation in complex economies and systems of production and consumption, problems in this sphere result in the appearance of critical issues in such sectors as healthcare. Cairns (2017) states that the majority of millennials experience problems in both these spheres. The lack of money and low motivation to work stipulate the rise of the health problems that pose a significant threat to young people (Ventriglio & Bhugra, 2015). The book emphasizes this fact and states that the age of entitlement could hardly be associated with the above-mentioned problems.


Finally, the book reveals numerous ecological problems modern society faces nowadays. Cogitating about the gradually declining state of the environment, Cairns (2017) focuses readers attention on the idea that millennials will have to live with it and look for particular solutions to survive and save the nature. This fact also contradicts the concept of the age of entitlement and assumptions about too high expectations of young people. On the contrary, they accept numerous responsibilities that depress them and demand immediate actions.


Altogether, the book is an important source that cultivates the enhanced understanding of the idea of the so-called age of entitlement and attitude to young people, or millennials. Despite the idea that their expectations are too high, and they live in an ideal society, this cohort faces numerous barriers and challenges that deteriorate their lives and result in the further sophistication of the situation. Cairns (2017) initiates important debates that might help to reconsider particular attitudes and acquire new perspectives on the most topical problems of modern society.

In conclusion, Cairns managed to create an interesting and informative book that persuades readers to look at traditional issues from another angle and reconsider their approaches. The author touches upon the most topical problems related to the issue of millennials and performs a comprehensive analysis of the concept. As for me, there are no visible gaps in his cogitations which means that the book could be recommended for reading.

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Cairns, J. (2017). The myth of the age of entitlement: Millennials, austerity, and hope. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.

Ventriglio, A., & Bhugra, D. (2015). Age of entitlement and the young: Implications for social psychiatry. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 62(2), 107-109. Web.

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