International Perspectives on the Millennial Generation
Edited by Eddy S. Ng, Sean Lyons and Linda Schweitzer
An ancient Arab proverb proclaims that men resemble their times more than they do their fathers. The age-old notion that social change is embedded in value shifts from one generation to another has become something of a truism over time. Phrases like “my generation,” “the younger generation” and the “post-war generation” have crept into common vernacular as a means of demarcating significant social groups on the basis of their locations in history. Yet our recent interest in differences among the generations is not mere fad or pop-culture frivolity. The construct of generations has a long theoretical tradition in the field of sociology. The theory of generations is largely predicated on the foundational work of sociologist Karl Mannheim, whose 1923 essay “The problem of generations” posited that individuals born within the same historical period and socio-cultural context experience the same events and context during their crucial formative years, which provides them with a common “inborn way of experiencing life and the world” (Mannheim, 1923 , p. 283). In other words, history imbues each generation with a unique worldview, which is forged by the historical opportunities and challenges of our times. Subsequent researchers and theorists have elaborated on this theory, noting that the shaping influences of a generation must be understood as the confluence of historical events, progression through the developmental life cycle and episodic period effects that impact on society as a whole (Ryder, 1965; Strauss and Howe, 1991). Others have depicted the generational phenomenon as a battle for resources, with...