December 9, 2009

The great moderation of the ego during the 1980s

Tom Wolfe named the 1970s "the Me decade," and Steve Sailer briefly touches on a feature article which shows that the trend is apparently still with us. For my pay blog, I'm putting together an extensive look at how our level of sarcasm and egocentrism has changed over the past 150 years. Below is a snippet covering only 1950 to the present, and for only two of the many measures I'm looking at. It shows the fraction of all NYT articles that contain the word "so-called" or "me":

Sure enough, there is a surge during the 1970s of snark and self-centered thinking, although they'd already begun rising during the '60s. However, they reach their peak in the late '70s, suddenly plummet through the mid-1980s, and remain at that bottom through the late '80s. This reflects the eclipsing of Baby Boomers as the dominant youth tribe by the disco-punk generation and the earliest Gen X-ers before they actually hatched in 1991. In their view, moving on and getting a life was more fun than whining about, like, whatever.

When Generation X did break out of their shells in the early 1990s and afterward, the level of sarcasm and egocentrism shot up again. Based on "me," we may be nearing a turning point, although "so-called" doesn't show a clear sign of slowing down. We'll have to wait and see (or look at more data than these two words).

So whether or not it was a decade of excess, during the 1980s (and starting just before then) people momentarily decided to stop dripping sarcasm like a bunch of bratty teenagers and to dial down the volume on Me!

Plus the Regan administration was deregulating many of the silly and ignorant fetters of the earlier commie era, and the airwaves weren't carrying pretentious junk but rather Madonna and Michael Jackson (both of whom were younger than Boomers but older than X-ers). Sure hope we get another one like that sometime soon. Only downside was the high crime rates, but hey, life can't be exciting in one dimension alone; it goes across the board.


  1. I was born in '66.

    Reagan was the worst president in US history that is still falsely believed to be the best president in US history. I can't even detail how many ways he fucked up this country, but believe me he did.

    There was no moderation of "ego" during the 80's. In fact, it exploded and the worship of money and profit rose to staggering new heights during the Reaganomics era. We're all paying the price today for the policies set in motion 25-30 years ago.

  2. So the important question I see is what caused the decline in egoism toward the end of the 70s? And what revived it?

    - Breeze


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