The Discontented Generation: How Elite Overproduction Fuels Today’s Angry Activism

Robert Thompson
News and Narrative
Published in
4 min readJun 15, 2024

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Photo by Pang Yuhao on Unsplash

In recent years, a wave of angry activism has swept across the globe, characterized by impassioned protests, calls for social justice, and a deep sense of disillusionment among young, educated individuals. While this phenomenon may appear to be a sudden outburst of frustration, its roots can be traced back to a complex sociological concept known as “elite overproduction.”

Elite overproduction, a term coined by Peter Turchin, describes a situation in which a society produces more highly educated individuals than there are suitable jobs available for them. This surplus of potential elite members creates a pressure cooker of social instability, as those left out of power structures feel increasingly aggrieved by their relatively low socioeconomic status. Much like the accumulation of deadwood in a forest sets the stage for a catastrophic fire, elite overproduction paves the way for significant social upheaval.

This problem has been particularly acute for humanities graduates who entered the job market in the decade following the 2008 financial crisis. Traditional career paths in fields such as publishing, media, and academia were severely disrupted by the economic downturn and the rise of digital technologies. As a result, many of these graduates have found themselves unable to…

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