Denison University’s Department of Philosophy and the Titus-Hepp Lecture Series welcomes Professor of Philosophy at Grinnell College Johanna Meehan, presenting “Millennial Anxiety: Neo-liberalism, the Politics of Recognition and Intensive Parenting.”
Students attending elite liberal arts colleges have been described as fragile and coddled, first by their parents and then by college professors and administrators. Some have attributed this to “helicopter” or “intensive parenting,” arguing that the contemporary market place and the lessening availability of lucrative work prospects has forced parents to cultivate their children’s talents in order to assure they will be able to compete for a piece of the ever shrinking economic pie. While Meehan does think that intensive parenting has become the norm for a certain percentage of the population, she doesn’t think it is driven solely by economic concerns nor does it necessarily lead to students who are strong competitors in the marketplace. Instead, Meehan believes that the ever increasing rhetoric and reality of neo-liberalism and the relational recognition that drives intensive parenting are fundamentally at odds with one another. The clash between the very different orientations of intensive parenting and neo liberalism lead to contemporary students’ increased anxiety and depression. She argues that the relational needs that intensive parenting recognizes and encourages, are at odds with the model of homo economicus that contemporary political orientations celebrate. It is this mismatch that explains the current mental health crisis among the young.
Meehan received her Bachelor of Arts from Brandeis University and her Master of Arts and PhD from Boston University and currently holds the McCay-Casady Chair in Humanities at Grinnell College. She writes on feminist, psychoanalytic, and Critical theory as well as on the work of Hannah Arendt.