The Truth Behind Generation Gaps

Last week was about mad. This week is about hope.

I am squarely in the middle of Generation X. In my last post I commented how my Grandparents and Parents generations are partly to blame for this financial predicament, the national debt, and decisions made by our presidents and Congress (mostly members of these two generations). The problem is it may not be their fault.

There is a four generation cycle that has persisted throughout US History. The first generation is the dreamer generation. The second generation is more pragmatic, translating that dream into a vision and plan for implementation. The third generation is implementers, helping the second generation make the changes to attain this vision. And the fourth generation likes the status quo, settling into consistent patterns and giving birth to a generation that dreams about how the world can be better.

My grandparents generation, the model of 1950s and 1960s suburbia who attained the height of their political power in the 1970s and 1980s, were the status quo generation. My parents, the dreamers of the 1960s, have reached the height of their political power in the 1990s and 2000s. My generation is just now rising to power, with its most visible member, Barack Obama, running for the presidency. And the fourth generation, Generation Y, will begin running for public office in the next decade. My kids, the millenial generation or Gen Z, will be happy once again with the status quo.

This means every 70-90 years, we start over.

And a simple look back over history tells us this is true. A massive new vision was instituted in the era of 1940s to 1960s, the last time the “second generation” was in power. And before that? Try the 1860s, eighty years before, when the abolition movement came to fruition (and, technically, the crushing of states rights during the Civil War, which has led to today’s outsized federal government). And before that? Try the 1770s and 1780s, 75-85 years prior, and the birthing of a a new nation.

Why does this give me hope? Because 2010-2030 is the era of Visionaries and Implementers once again. And if history is any indication, the cremes of those crops will be well positioned to deal with the major issues of today.

2 thoughts on “The Truth Behind Generation Gaps

  1. The views articluated here, based on the work of Strauss and Howe, have been increasingly discredited, partly because it doesn’t allow for the well-established shortening of generations based on the acceleration of culture…If you study the most recent books and articles from the top generations experts, you’ll find that the concensus is more or less like this:
    Silent Generation: 1925-1941
    Boomers: 1942-1953
    Generation Jones: 1954-1965
    Generation X: 1966-1978
    Generation Y: 1979-1990

    Obama–born in 1961– is not a part of Generation X, but rather of Generation Jones. You can view a compelling 5 minute video of a couple dozen top political journalists (from the NYTimes, Time Magazine, NBC, etc.) talking about Obama’s role as a GenJoneser, and the ’08 election.

  2. Thanks for writing. I had never heard of Generation Jones before. Most reports I have read regarding Baby Boomer generation, including Wikipedia, list Boomers as 1946-64. Of course, US and world events really shape a generation. My grandparents generation was highly shaped by WWII, my parents by Vietnam and Watergate, my generation by the 9/11 and the “war on terror” (Iraq/Afghanistan invasions).

    Either way, my point is still valid. Each generation poses its own unique perspective on our political and economic lives. Whatever the combined influence of the Jones, X and Y Generations, these next 20 years will include a visionary change for the United States.

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