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Generation: the politics of patriarchy and social change

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The first instalment of the Soundings critical terms series looks at ways in which the idea of generation is deployed in mainstream discourse, often as a way of displacing class and other sources of inequality from consideration. They identify two key thinkers on generation: Edmund Burke, for whom it meant the transmission of property and culture through time, and Karl Mannheim, for whom it referred to the experiences of particular cohorts at times of rapid political change. Later examples of generationally defined explanatory categories include the Babyboomers, the Millennials, Generation X. The Burkean approach has regressive implications, for example in the justification of austerity as a way of protecting future generations from debt; and the Mannheimian understanding, although not as conservative, needs to be connected to an intersectional analysis that looks at other identity markers alongside those of age – such as class, race, gender and sexuality - so as to avoid flattening differences within cohorts and impeding solidarities between generations. Generational factors in the 2017 general election played an important role in galvanising support for Labour.
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Keywords: BABYBOOMERS; CLASS; EDMUND BURKE; GENDER; GENERATION; IDENTITY; INHERITANCE; KARL MANNHEIM; MILLENNIALS; PROPERTY; RACE; YOUNG PEOPLE

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 15, 2017

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