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Generation X


In his September cover story for Harper’s, Justin E. H. Smith sets out to define Generation X, that nameless cohort wedged between boomers and millennials whose members, in midlife, now face “an annihilation of almost everything that once oriented us.” Smith argues that Gen X, having come of age before the erosion of fixtures like liberal democracy and rock and roll, failed to protect postwar counterculture from commercialism and corporatization. As debates about art and politics loom large today, Smith affirms the essential link between the two while championing what he identifies as his generation’s core pursuit of artistic autonomy and human liberation. Editor of Harper’s and fellow Gen Xer Christopher Beha sat down with Smith to discuss intergenerational relations, how Smith’s essay evolved over the editorial process, and how art at its best interrogates the arguable and not the obvious.

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