Do Generations Exist?

Labeling generations seems profitable for marketers targeting specific social groups at any period. Otherwise, meh. My cohort may include those born near the TIME I was but we otherwise diverge greatly by ethnicity, class, religion, location, education, available media, etc. Poor nonwhite girls did not share my middleclass Anglo boy’s life nor dreams. Kids I saw at the slot-car parlor after school looked much like me; those working the fields didn’t. My family home was book-filled while some neighbors had little more than a bible and old pop magazines. We are NOT the same.

But even that one stretches all the way from 1946 to 1964, right? So take a guy like Bill Clinton, who remembers where he was when JFK was shot, and who faced big ‘coming of age’ decisions because of the draft and the Vietnam War, and who then got politically active and became Governor — and figure a guy who was still years away from being able to vote would note that he hadn’t been born when JFK died, and add that he was twelve when the Vietnam War was already a thing that had ended years earlier and Carter had already pardoned the draft dodgers?

What would their conversation sound like? “Hey, remember when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon?” “Uh, not really, no.”

It occurred to me, when reading this post, that when most people talk about events that define the generations they are talking about American events. So do other nations and cultures have different divisions and names for the generations?

I’d assume that the fall of communism defines a watershed moment in the generations of the former Soviet bloc. But is that really the case?

I expect (IMHO) that generations raised in nations flattened during WWII differ from the less-affected US, as well as those nations uninvolved in that war. For harder data than my IMHO, see A Survey of 19 Countries Shows How Generations X, Y, and Z Are — and Aren’t — Different. But those coming of age in “victorious” post-WWII European states lived a lot leaner than we Yanks. I dunno if Brazilians noticed or changed much. And I think Mexican generations are defined by the last revolution as much as by social-ethnic status.

A nearby thread (sorry, no cite) explores post-Communist states and their often bad reactions to the collapse of socio-economic support. “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work” fails in globalism.

I guess, but it’s the closest I think there is to a monolithic cohort.

As I said in #21, members of that age group (myself included), born around America in varied ethnic-social-religious-class demographics, can be pretty damn dissimilar. Much of the US only began homogenizing with the advent of interstate highways and affordable televisions midway or later in the boomer years.

As I said in another thread about generations, it’s really a kind of astrology-type categorization. So, I’d say to the OP that generations don’t exist in any real sense, especially when you start taking multiple countries into consideration.

The world - the culture, the technology, the economy, the attitudes - changes constantly. In my lifetime, the 60s were different from the 50s, and the 70s different from the 60s, and on and on. Those overarching changes affect everyone, younger people especially. Not everyone reacts to those changes in the same way - if you think the boomers were universally hippies then you can’t possibly understand why conservatives took over politics - but they all have to react to the new. IME, Boomers generally picked up on computers fairly easily; those born before 1946 generally didn’t. Those who grew up always exposed to smartphones use social media differently than those who didn’t.

Generations are real. They are also fuzzy. Lots of other factors - family, religion, politics, jobs, religions, ethnicity - are often more influential than time of birth. Think of generations not as rules but as rules as thumb, first approximations only.