GENERATIONALISM IS A complex phenomenon. The concept of a generation is obvious: the social and economic contexts for a group of people born around the same time are going to be somewhat similar. But in addressing lived experience, a number of factors highlight how arbitrary such categorisation is: place, culture, socio-economic standing. In Generation Less: How Australia is Cheating the Young (Black Inc., 2016), Jennifer Rayner identifies this apparent contradiction as the difference between ‘cohort’ and ‘life cycle’ effects – that is, between the standard conception of generations as age groups, and the non age-specific commonalities that such designations cannot adequately address.
In the 1920s, sociologist Karl Mannheim identified ‘the problem of generations’ as central to understanding ‘the accelerated pace of social change characteristic of our times’.[i] Almost a century later, that accelerated pace is also characterising generation Y (the millennial generation; roughly, those born between 1980 and the mid-1990s) – though dictated by the digital revolution rather than the aftermath of the First World War.
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