From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
In biology, the process by which populations of organisms pass on advantageous traits from generation to generation is known as evolution.
Generational development can be both dependent upon cultural as well as circumstantial consequences. Society can influence the years between generations as can unforeseen situations. It is important to distinguish between familial and cultural generations. Some define a familial generation as the average time between a mother's first offspring and her daughter's first offspring. For much of human history the average generation length has been determined socially by the average age of women at first birth, about 16 years. This is due to the place it holds in the family unit economics of committing resources towards raising of children, and necessitating greater productivity from the parents, usually the male. Factors such as: greater industrialisation and demand for cheap female labour, urbanisation, delayed first pregnancy, and a greater uncertainty in relationship stability have all contributed to the increase of the generation length through the late-18th to the late-20th centuries. These changes can be attributed to both societal level factors, such as GDP and state policy, and related individual level variables, particularly a woman's educational attainment. In developed nations the average familial generation length is in the high 20s and has even reached 30 years in some nations. As of 2008, the average generation length in the United States was 25 years, up 3.6 years since 1970. Germany saw the largest increase in generation length over that time period, from 24 years in 1970 to 30 years in 2008. Conversely, generation length has changed little and remains in the low 20s in less developed nations.
Cultural generations are cohorts of people who were born in the same date range and share similar cultural experience. The idea of a cultural generation, in the sense that it is used today gained currency in the 19th century. Prior to that the concept "generation" had generally referred to family relationships, not broader social groupings. In 1863, French lexicographer Emile Littré had defined a generation as, "all men living more or less at the same time."
However, as the 19th century wore on, several trends promoted a new idea of generations, of a society divided into different categories of people based on age. These trends were all related to the process of modernisation, industrialisation, or westernisation, which had been changing the face of Europe since the mid-18th century. One was a change in mentality about time and social change. The increasing prevalence of enlightenment ideas encouraged the idea that society and life were changeable, and that civilization could progress. This encouraged the equation of youth with social renewal and change. Political rhetoric in the 19th century often focused on the renewing power of youth influenced by movements such as Young Italy, Young Germany, Sturm und Drang, the German Youth Movement, and other romantic movements. By the end of the 19th century European intellectuals were disposed toward thinking of the world in generational terms, and in terms of youth rebellion and emancipation.
Two important contributing factors to the change in mentality were the change in the economic structure of society. Because of the rapid social and economic change, young men particularly were less beholden to their fathers and family authority than they had been. Greater social and economic mobility allowed them to flout their authority to a much greater extent than had traditionally been possible. Additionally, the skills and wisdom of fathers were often less valuable than they had been due to technological and social change. During this time, the period of time between childhood and adulthood, usually spent at university or in military service, was also increased for many people entering white collar jobs. This category of people was very influential in spreading the ideas of youthful renewal.
Another important factor was the break-down of traditional social and regional identifications. The spread of nationalism and many of the factors that created it (a national press, linguistic homogenisation, public education, suppression of local particularities) encouraged a broader sense of belonging, beyond local affiliations. People thought of themselves increasingly as part of a society, and this encouraged identification with groups beyond the local.
Auguste Comte was the first philosopher to make a serious attempt to systematically study generations. In Cours de philosophie positive Comte suggested that social change is determined by generational change and in particular conflict between successive generations. As the members of a given generation age, their "instinct of social conservation" becomes stronger, which inevitably and necessarily brings them into conflict with the "normal attribute of youth"— innovation. Other important theorists of the 19th century were John Stuart Mill and Wilhelm Dilthey.
Karl Mannheim was a seminal figure in the study of generations. He suggested that there had been a division into two primary schools of study of generations until that time: positivists, such as Comte who measured social change in fifteen to thirty year life spans, which he argued reduced history to “a chronological table.” The other school, the “romantic-historical” was represented by Dilthey and Martin Heidegger. This school emphasised the individual qualitative experience at the expense of social context.
Mannheim emphasised that the rapidity of social change in youth was crucial to the formation of generations, and that not every generation would come to see itself as distinct. In periods of rapid social change a generation would be much more likely to develop a cohesive character. He also believed that a number of distinct sub-generations could exist.
Jose Ortega y Gasset was another influential generational theorist of the 20th century.
Since then, generations have been defined in many different ways, by different people. Generational claims can often overlap and conflict. Often generational identification has a strongly political implication or connotation.
List of generations
- The Lost Generation, also known as the Generation of 1914 in Europe, is a term originating with Gertrude Stein to describe those who fought in World War I. The members of the lost generation were typically born between 1883 and 1900.
- The Greatest Generation, also known as the G.I. Generation, is the generation that includes the veterans who fought in World War II. They were born from around 1901 through 1924, coming of age during the Great Depression. Journalist Tom Brokaw dubbed this the Greatest Generation in a book of the same name.
- The Silent Generation born 1925 through 1945, is the generation that includes those who were too young to join the service during World War II. Many had fathers who served in World War I. Generally recognized as the children of the Great Depression, this event during their formative years had a profound impact on them.
- The Baby Boom Generation is the generation that was born following World War II, from 1946 up to 1964, a time that was marked by an increase in birth rates. The baby boom has been described variously as a "shockwave" and as "the pig in the python." By the sheer force of its numbers, the boomers were a demographic bulge which remodeled society as it passed through it. In general, baby boomers are associated with a rejection or redefinition of traditional values; however, many commentators have disputed the extent of that rejection, noting the widespread continuity of values with older and younger generations. In Europe and North America boomers are widely associated with privilege, as many grew up in a time of affluence. One of the features of Boomers was that they tended to think of themselves as a special generation, very different from those that had come before them. In the 1960s, as the relatively large numbers of young people became teenagers and young adults, they, and those around them, created a very specific rhetoric around their cohort, and the change they were bringing about.
- Generation X (also known as the 13th Generation and the Baby Busters) is the generation generally defined as those born after the baby boom ended, from 1965 to 1981. The term generally includes people born during all or part of the 1960s: According to Strauss-Howe generational theory, 1961 is the starting point, though other sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, consider it to have started in the mid-1960s. It ends in late 1970s to early 1980s, usually not later than 1981
- Generation Y, the Millennial Generation (or Millennials), Generation Next, Net Generation, Echo Boomers, describes the generation following Generation X from probably 1982 to 1999. As there are no precise dates for when the Millennial generation starts and ends, commentators have used birth dates ranging somewhere from the mid-1970s to the early 2000s (decade). Experts differ on the start date of Generation Y. William Strauss and Neil Howe use the start year as 1982, and end years around the turn of the millennium, while others use start years that are earlier or later than 1982, and end years in the mid-1990s.
- Generation Z, also known as Generation I, or Internet Generation, and Generation Text, and the "Digital Natives" by Marc Prensky and is the following generation. The earliest birth is generally dated in the early 1990s
- Generation AO, the Always-On Generation (or Gen AO), was first used by Elon University professor Janna Quitney Anderson in 2012 to describe people born between the early 2000s and the 2020s whose lives have been influenced since their early childhood by connectivity afforded by easy access to people and the world’s knowledge through the Internet. A survey of 1,000 experts she and Lee Rainie conducted for the Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project found that the generation brought up from childhood with a continuous connection to each other and to information will be nimble, quick-acting multitaskers who count on the Internet as their external brain; the experts also predicted Gen AO will exhibit a thirst for instant gratification and quick fixes, a loss of patience and a lack of deep-thinking ability.
- In China, the Post-80s (Chinese: 八零后世代 or 八零后) (born-after-1980 generation) (also sometimes called China's Generation Y) are those who were born between the year 1980 to 1989 in urban areas of Mainland China. These people are also called "Little Emperors" (or at least the first to be called so) because of the People's Republic of China's one-child policy. Growing up in modern China, China’s Gen Y has been characterised by its optimism for the future, newfound excitement for consumerism and entrepreneurship and acceptance of its historic role in transforming modern China into an economic superpower. Other Chinese generations are also named in a similar fashion, with Post-90s (Chinese: 九零后) referring to modern teenagers and college students.
- In South Korea, generational cohorts are often defined around the democratization of the country, with various schemes suggested including names such as the "democratization generation", 386 generation (also called the "June 3, 1987 generation"), that witnessed the June uprising, the "April 19 generation" (that struggled against the Syngman Rhee regime in 1960), the "June 3 generation" (that struggled against the normalization treaty with Japan in 1964), the "1969 generation" (that struggled against the constitutional revision allowing three presidential terms), and the shinsedae ("new") generation.
- In India, generations tend to follow a pattern similar to the broad western model, although there are still major differences, especially in the older generations. According to one interpretation, Indian independence in 1947 marked a generational shift in India. People born in the 1930s and 1940s tended to be loyal to the new state and tended to adhere to "traditional" divisions of society. Indian "boomers", those born after independence and into the early 1960s, tended to link success to leaving India and were more suspicious of traditional societal institutions. Events such as the Indian Emergency made them more sceptical of government. Generation X saw an improvement in India's economy and they are more comfortable with diverse perspectives. Generation Y continues this pattern.
- (From section "Post-80s in Hong Kong" of Post-80s) Post-80s in Hong Kong and the after-eighty generation in mainland China are for the most part different. The term Post-80s (八十後) came into use in Hong Kong between 2009 and 2010, particularly during the course of the opposition to the Guangzhou-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, during which a group of young activists came to the forefront of the Hong Kong political scene. They are said to be "post-materialist" in outlook, and they are particularly vocal in issues such as urban development, culture and heritage, and political reform.
The term generation is sometimes applied to a cultural movement, or more narrowly defined group than an entire demographic. Some examples include:
- The Beat Generation, a popular American cultural movement that most social scholars say laid the foundation of the pro-active American counterculture of the 1960s. It consisted of Americans born between the two world wars who came of age in the rise of the automobile era, and the surrounding accessibility they brought to the culturally diverse, yet geographically broad and separated nation. The Beat Generation is between the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers.
- The Hip Hop Generation, another popular American cultural movement describing a musical and cultural phenomenon that from humble beginnings had an international impact. Coined by author Bakari Kitwana, it describes a generation of people, regardless of race, who came of age in post-segregation America. Kitwana establishes the years 1965-1984, which includes Generation X and Generation Y.
- The Stolen Generation, a contentious term for children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were allegedly removed from their families by the Australian Federal and State government agencies and church missions, under acts of their respective parliaments between approximately 1869 and 1969.
- The Generation of €700 is a term popularized by the Greek mass media and refers to educated Greek twixters of urban centers who generally fail to establish a career. Young adults are usually forced into underemployment in temporary and occasional jobs, unrelated to their educational background, and receive the minimum allowable base salary of €700. This generation evolved in circumstances leading to the Greek debt crisis and participated in the 2010–2011 Greek protests.
- Generational accounting
- Intergenerational equity
- Strauss-Howe generational theory
- Transgenerational design
- Generation Gap