Harper’s Magazine
The Harper’s Podcast
Generation X

Generation X

The art and politics that shaped a forgotten generation.

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.

  • Subscribe to Harper’s for only $16.97: harpers.org/save

  • “My Generation” Justin E. H. Smith’s essay in the September issue of Harper’s

  • “Permanent Pandemic” Justin E. H. Smith’s piece from June 2022 about the endurance and overextension of COVID-19 digital infrastructure

  • 2:24: “my ideal audience is Harper’s readers”

  • 3:22: the relationship between art and politics

  • 19:07: “as a teenager in the 1980s, there was a widespread sense that our era was kind of a weak aftershock of what our parents had experienced.”

  • 27:04: “I think one way to think about this generation is a generation that came of age intellectually and emotionally and perhaps politically before the September 11 attacks.”

  • 37:06: “If we think that the state of emergency requires of us that we stop thinking about art as an autonomous sphere of creation … once you’ve lost that, you’ve lost everything.”

Harper’s Magazine
The Harper’s Podcast
Since 1850, Harper’s Magazine has provided its readers with a unique perspective on the issues that drive our national conversation, featuring writing from some of the most promising to most distinguished names in literature–from Barbara Ehrenreich to Rachel Kushner. Every week, host Violet Lucca joins her colleagues and contributing writers to provide listeners with a deep dive into these topics and the craft of long-form narrative journalism.
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