Monday, November 5, 2012

Generations: the History of America's Future

Last year, a friend of mine in Vienna suggested this book to me. We got to talking about certain stereotypes of our generation. Things like we're all a bunch of bratty mama's babies with helicopter parents, or that we don't know how to take care of ourselves.

That got my dander up, and my friend and I agreed that each of us has as specific role to play in the world, and in a funny way, we're nothing like our parents' generation, why is that? Certainly we've been influenced by them, but not necessarily because we were raised by them? What exactly is the rapport between generations, anyway?

Though a little dated (it was written in 1992), Generations: the History of America's Future by William Strauss and Neil Howe (who later expounded on the theory in The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy and Millenials Rising: The Next Great Generation), is a compelling read. Don't pick it up if you're a hard-core history student. There is a lot of pop-history and pop-sociology bandied about, with not so much peer-review to back it up. For the whole Wikipedia explanation, click here.Strauss and Howe go through the entire gamut of American history, from the Puritans to the 1980s. It was pretty revolutionary when it came out, I believe.

My generation is the "new" Civic generation on the continuum, people who were born roughly between 1983 and 2003, also known as Millenials. The generation above us is the Gen-X, or Reactive generation, and then the Baby Boomers, or Idealistic generation, and the old and very old would be the Adaptive ("Silent" generation) and the "old" Civic generation, or the "Greatest Generation" who were WWII veterans.

So, something my friend and I both felt was that our generation will do great things, it's just that we're stagnating now in the aftermath of the "Great Recession" and older generations just need to give us a chance! I also extrapolated from the generational profiles that older people (ahem, Baby Boomers) staying in jobs when they should be retiring are going to have to step down at some point and let us run the show. We have plenty of ideas, and we wouldn't be so spoiled if we could just get to work doing and building!

I don't have any claim to make in conclusion, just that I enjoyed the book, and how it affected my way of looking at history.

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