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Dec 02, 2005


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will spotts

I have always disliked the term Generation X. (Solely because it originally referred to the 61-64 period only -- and I hate it when the accepted usage changes.)

I'm curious how accurate a predicter this pattern is. If so, what factors make it that way, and what factors would interrupt it. (I guardedly grant great similarities between generations falling in the same order.)

Michael Kruse

I hear ya on the Gen X name. Yet every other name I have seen used meets with similar disdain. I use it only because it is one that more seem have connected than any other.

I don't think Stauss and Howe are fatilist. I think they see this as forecasting not predciting. I look at it this way. I need gas for my car and I come across two gas stations across the street from each other. One is selling gas for 2 dollars a gallon and the other for a 1.5 dollars. Is it inescapable fate that I will chose the 1.5 dollar station? No. Are most people likely to choose the 1.5 dollar station? Yes.

I think a similar dynamic works here. Each generation sets up (not intentionally) a set variables for the generations that follow. The following generations tend to respond in predictable ways, not out of fatalistic compulsion, but because they are choosing what they see as their best interest.

I don't know if you caught my piece just before I went to talking about the G.I.s but Strauss and Howe claim that the saeculum that included the Civil War ended up being a three generation cycle instead of four. The generation that should have been the "Hero" generation fought the war but there was no sense of jubilant victory when all was said and done. In young adulthood, they morphed into some kind of "Hero-Artist" hybrid that functioned more like an "Artist" generation. I don't think S & H would say that these turnings are fated. It is only that they are resiliant patterns of powerful social forces. That is my take.

Michael Kruse

One of the things Strauss and Howe comment on is the widening an narrowing of gender roles during the turnings. They are at their maximum during a first turning (Most recently 1946-1964.) They begin narrowing in a second turning (1964-1984) as concern about the behavior and treatment of girls grows. The third turning is the time of least difference in gender roles. (1984-2001?) At the beginning of a fourth turning a concern about the behavior of boys emerges and roles widen again. Writing in the mid-1990s, Strauss and Howe forecasted that about a decade later, after entering the fourth turning, attention would turn to the plight of boys.

Several days ago I heard Laura Bush talking about making the needs of boys a top priority. Then I woke up this morning and opened the Kansas City Star and the front page headline is the first of a Four part series called "Raising Our Boys Better."


It is repeated experiences of this kind of verification of Strauss and Howe's analysis that makes it the most persuasive for me.

will spotts

I see what you mean about Gen X. It is readily recognizable.

On gender roles, I was going to use that very example. If this is "forecastable", then a lot of the things that have been perceived as a gain by feminists (and large sectors of society -- though not to as great a degree) are scheduled to swing back in the other direction.

I can understand the dynamics talked about -- how they would create conditions that would produce the same general types of moods.

What I noticed in previous exposure to this was that the pattern (or at least descriptions of it) seemed less coherent accross ethnic lines.

I also noticed that it often describes more mass market trends -- I hate to put it that way, but it is the trend of the mainstream, not necessarily the trend of the "movers of events". The leaders used as exemplars of different periods are often simply good marketers -- they have their reasons for what they do, and they tap into a prevailing mood of the larger population.

John Savard

I've seen elsewhere statements that the trailing edge of the baby boom started in 1955, and here it's not clear if GenX is the trailing edge of the boom, or the baby bust that followed.

Michael W. Kruse

John, the authors place there generational transitions based on coalescence of factors. Others have developed other scenarios for explaining events. The others use the analogy of transitioning from one season to another. Late October can sometimes be warmer than early September but we still recognize a shift from summer to fall. Same with generations.

The authors also acknowledge subsets as useful points of analysis. The see some unique qualities of for the war babies born about 1942-1944, and the cohort born 1960-1963 as I recall. Some believe the group born 1955-1964 have as similar story. I don't think the authors would dispute sub-groups exist but rather that the sub-groups lived in the context of these larger generational contexts.


I so like being called a Gen x'er....instead of a boomer. never had any advantages in life. born in 1961...Neil howe has it right.

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