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The ‘Millennial generation’

Over at the Vololkh Conspiracy group blog of writers on legal issues, there is this interesting posting:

Millennials are those with birth years 1982 to roughly 2002. They are a larger group than the Boomers, and they are the most diverse generation ever. The core personality traits are: special, sheltered, confident, conventional, team-oriented, achieving and pressured.

However, the author is not all that convinced that one could, or should lump whole generations of people together under a single category, assuming them to have common traits, whether they are parts of the ‘Greatest Generation’, ‘Baby Boomers’, the ‘Me-Generation’ or ‘Generation X’.

This isn’t to say that times don’t change; technology can shape social experience, and those growing up with new technologies naturally have a different relationship to it. But I guess I am pretty skeptical that ‘the Millennials” are much different from ‘Generation X,’ or that ‘Generation X’ was much different from whatever you want to call the generation before that. I tend to think that for the most part, people are just people.

Pretty much my view, in fact. Yes, some of the current annoyance of my generation (I was born in May 1966, a rather good time for English soccer, not so good for our economic dynamism) at the Baby Boomers stems from a perception that those born after WW2 enjoyed a relatively cushy deal, not least in the form of things like final-salary pensions. The younger generations, caught up in the demographic changes caused by aeging and longer lifespans, may feel that older people have had it easy. But I think this can be overstated somewhat. Sometimes, when I hear of a certain kind of commenter waxing indignant about Babyboomers, one is struck by the bitter edge, and a sort of peeved dislike at having missed out on a permanent party.

23 comments to The ‘Millennial generation’

  • dearieme

    I think that we can assess the boomers by the first two Presidents that they’ve provided to the USA. What a pair of duds!

  • “1982 to roughly 2002”

    So we’re making sweeping generalizations about everyone between the ages of 4 and 24 the way we might make such generalizations about people aged 64 to 84?

    They may be selling, but I’m not buying.

  • Steve

    The whole article reads as if the authors only contact with a person born after 1982 was a 14 year old middle class white girl from Rhode Island.

    As a ‘millenial’ myself (I already hate the word, makes me sound like a type of cheap confectionery) I don’t recognise any part of the description in myself or anyone I know, and most of the ‘core personality traits’ are laughable.

  • I remember when Gen-X was a subject of much pop-sociological theorizing. The local call-in radio shows would have successful professionals from that demographic calling in, complaining about being tarred as a load of whining slackers.

  • Well we Gen-Xers did kind of miss the party. I learnt sex=AIDS in primary school.

  • I too object to being lumped with all whose birth fell within years of myself. Altho born in 1950, I never boomed a baby in my life.

  • American boomers, as a class, seem to never tire of talking about themselves, what a special thing they were, and how they changed the country. It is this trait of theirs that drove me to appreciate talking to my Dad about the Depression. If I have to be marinated in someone else’s memories of their youth, it might as well be about a youth which involved more challenges to be faced and overcome than getting laid a lot and doing lots of great drugs.

  • The book Generations by Strauss and Howe identified the four recurring generational archetypes:

    Civic – focused on the external world; the generation of soldiers and builders of all things physical
    Adaptive – conformist, focused on stability; the generation of diplomats and paranoiacs scared of cultural change
    Idealist – focused on the inner world of ethics, religion, meaning, politics etc.; the generation of wise intellectuals, finger-pointing moralists, totalitarians
    Reactive – nonconformist, risk-taking; the generation of drug addicts, gangsters, and the highly resourceful

    These characteristics shoudl be identified as CULTURES, not stereotypes. Like all cultures, each generation has its statistical outliers.

    Yes, I do own up to being a finger-pointing moralist. And proud of it.

  • It’s bullsh–, Johnathan. I’m a boomer and the only thing which can be held against us as a class is that we let the children run wild and refuse to grow up. All the other arguments are sour grapes from Gen X who didn’t get their share.

  • guy herbert

    Plausible – just as is Gordon Rattray Taylor’s conception of societies moving between ‘matrist’ and ‘patrist’ poles. On that typology one could see current Western society as a couple of Adaptive generations dominated by the Idealist 70s radicals, who are trying to forge a Civic generation to rebuild the world to their specification. While Reactive liberal types beached from earlier eras, look on helplessly.

    But is it more than a plausible metaphor, more than psychoanalysis? How would you test the hypothesis that this cultural segmentation is meaningful, that there are not more types than Corporal, Compliant, Controlling and Creative, and that they are independent. (It looks like those types could be on two axes to me: control and collectivism – Creatives/Reactives and Corporals/Civics are control-neutral, neither wishing to dominate, nor to be dominated, but represent opposite ends of the individual/collective spectrum.)

  • Lizzie

    As a ‘millenial’ myself (I already hate the word, makes me sound like a type of cheap confectionery) I don’t recognise any part of the description in myself or anyone I know, and most of the ‘core personality traits’ are laughable.

    Seconded. I would add that, if people insist in lumping us into a group called “millennials”, far from being “team-oriented” we are in fact a very selfish generation, on the whole.

    There is of course nothing wrong with looking out for oneself, but it has become de rigeur to look out for oneself at the expense of others, no matter what the consequences for the other person. It seems to me that we just don’t care about other people very much. There’s not really a sense of balance between right and wrong these days: it’s all subjective, isn’t it?! (Or maybe it’s just my peer group that’s a bunch of arseholes …)

  • I think most of us are old enough to just call them a bunch of rotten little brats…

  • Manuel II Paleologos

    My main beef with babyboomers is simply that their version of history is so dominant.
    So we’re supposed to believe that the 50s were an era of cosy domesticity, the 60s were when “sex was invented”, the 70s was when people got hairy chests and got laid a lot, the 80s was when everyone got rich, the 90s they started worrying about the environment and pensions, and that now the single greatest issue facing humanity is provision of care for the elderly.

    If you’re born out of kilter it’s rather annoying the way their mythology dominates our culture. As Half Man Half Biscuit memorably remarked, “James Dean was just a careless driver, and Marilyn Monroe was just a slag”.

  • Recent computer analysis of police documentation of the accident scene shows that James Dean was not the driver at fault in the accident which killed him.

  • Nick M

    Well, I think this is nonsense. I think Larkin summed it up.

    Sexual Intercourse started in 1963.
    After the Lady Chatterley Trial and before the Beatle’s first LP.

    ‘Cos quite obviously nobody had ever had a shag before that.

    See. I don’t get it. I was born in ’73 and grew up in the 80s and went to University in the 90s. So the 80s was all money-grubbing and the 90s was about buying ecover rather than Fairy.

    Absolute bloody nonsense. In the 80s there were still a few honourable, convicted socialists, rather than the shower of gits who now masquarade as the Labour Party. Now don’t get me wrong here – I don’t like socialism in any form but you could at least respect Clem Attlee even if you disagreed with him. Can any of you say the same about Mandy, Bleary or Millibland?

    In the caring, sharing new-age 90s I met vastly more people who cared more for money than I ever met in the 80s. And they were dramatically more brazen about it.

    If anything has changed it is an increase in hypocrisy. “Dave” Cameron claims to be “green” but I’ll bet ya dollars to donuts that he produces more CO2 than me and my girlfriend do in our little gaff in Manchester. Despite our lack of a bloody pinwheel on the roof.

    I couldn’t give a monkey’s about CO2. I’ll bet anyone a Coke that this global warming thing is shown to be utter bollocks within twenty years from now.

    And Coke is one of the best uses for this greatly maligned gas.

    There’s a lot of annoyed comment on this site about New Labour pushing some form of communism through the back-door. You know what – I disagree. Communism is wrong but it’s at least an ideology. The Blairite clones don’t even have that. They just care about their own advancement. A truly socialist Labour Party would have abolished the House of Lords rather than flogging seats in it to the highest bidder.

    The only type of “wealth redistribution” the likes of Queen Cherie is concerned with is the sort that she personally benefits from.

    Why d’ya think voter turn-out in the UK keeps on sliding? D’ya not think it’s possibly because we’ve allowed a political class to take over who are essentially a bunch of parasites?

    There have obviously been changes in people’s outlook over the last 30 years but, for me, the biggest change is the complete destruction of any kinda “conviction politics” by our ruling elites (whoever they maybe).

    It’s not what you think or do. It’s what you can plausibly pretend to be. That is C21.

    I think I have ranted for long enough.

  • Concerning selfishness (in competent adults): if the person most responsible for your well being is not you, then who is it?

    And why?

    Best regards

  • Midwesterner

    Alan K. Henderson,

    The same authors wrote ‘The Fourth Turning’. I read it (from the library) back when it first came out and liked it enough to buy a copy. Since then, their predictions have been amazingly prescient.

    I recall thinking at the time that my own family follows their cycles except we are two generations out of sync.

    I highly recomment these people’s writings as very thought provoking to say the least.

  • Simon

    As a ‘millenial’ I think can identify people of all types within my grouping. This whole exercise just seems silly, since it is likely that one generation to the next will be pretty similar. Every generation is criticised for pretty much the same things the previous one, or perhaps even lauded for the same things.

    Still the 70’s idealist – adaptive – adaptive – ?Civic? timeline is a compelling description.

  • Interesting observation: the US never had an Adaptive (Silent Generation) president. We do have an Adaptive veep right now. We went straight from government-building Civics to philosophical crusader Idealists.

    An observation: talk radio and the blogosphere are a boon for Boomers and GenXers. Boomers tend to love playing armchair philosopher, and GenXers tend to love having a medium to vent. One wonders what Civics and Adaptives will do when they are the dominant force in blogs and talk radio. I expect Adaptives to be very cautious about rocking the cultural boat.

  • Another observation: on the surface, Dubya doesn’t seem to be much of a philosophical crusader. Not sure how much Boomer-ness that guy has.

  • Brett

    I call bull on James. I’m a boomer, and ashamed of my vain and thieving generation. They’ve pretty much put paid to any notion of the U.S. government protecting individual liberties in the interest of selling their votes for a spurious financial security. The best-schooled generation in U.S. history is woefully uneducated, and bullying the unpopular is their only domestic policy. Many of them expect to live an unearned ten decades or more, while promoting the contemptible notion that the only worthy life is a long one. The only hope for the return of a presumption of liberty is when the last of us have our ashes hauled to the dump, assuming the unfortunate generations educated by them have any sense at all after being schooled by such a stupid gang of shirking narcissists.

  • Brett

    A concrete example of the reasons for my contempt for the boomer generation can be gleaned from the fact that it took Al Gore and Bill Clinton to make Richard Nixon look classy.

  • The Greatest Generation were statists and takers, voting themselves more government money than anyone else and passing along the bill.

    I’m 1965 Xer and when I was in college AIDS was still for fags and Haitians. Of course, the party has ended. I feel sorry for younger X’ers who grew up under the sex = death meme.

    X doesn’t describe anyone I know and there is so much expectation of the Millenials…I’m like, what are we, chopped livah? We “slackers” are doing things and have worked our way up and we’re ripe…just like everyone who came before us. The Millenials seemed unconnected from reality, overconnected to each other, unethical in their social aggression (cyberbullying), unwilling to pay dues, want everything served on a platter, want a starting salary higher than mine after years in my profession. Uh, just like all children…who eventually grow up.

    And…not everyone is a tech addict. Most young folks in my area are not as tech addicted as Millenials are described to be. They lack critical thinking skills on learning to do something new on their computer besides porn and chat and their search skills are very poor. Being connected without skills isn’t a boon.

    I don’t think they are our saviors just as Xers aren’t slackers. Generational thinking is a crock, in large part.