Well, if James were writing today he would be depicting a very different mindset. It's mature. Finally, this once new nation has grown up. We got it: If you don't look out for yourself, you will be economically on a downward trajectory. Our colleagues, neighbors and children are dropping like flies.
Some have positioned the findings of the recent The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll as "pessimistic." The majority surveyed don't predict their children will fare better economically than they have done. Here is the coverage in the WSJ (sub. req.)
That lack of optimism isn't pessimism. It's the emergence of realism about the need to hustle, be cagey, and scan the horizons for opportunity. Education, pedigree and a sweet temperament don't guarantee anything.
A fiction writer who's in touch might title a series of short stories or sudden fiction as "Games of Musical Chairs."