Generational Generalizations Gone Wrong

How the guys who coined the word millennials missed the mark


Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, by Neil Howe and William Strauss, Vintage, 432 pages, $17.95

When some parents of the 1980s and '90s started sending their kids to schools where uniforms were required, who could have imagined the social consequences? Those dress codes became a core part of that rising generation's identity—"a defining symbol of a much larger effort to clean up child behavior," as one history of the trend recalls—setting the stage for the "compulsory uniformed service" that those same kids joined en masse after they left college. Even outside the service corps, young people took to wearing "'general issue' clothing reminiscent of the G.I.s." With time the generation's conformist style came to represent a "collective grandeur," leading historians to see the millennials' school and soccer uniforms "as harbingers of monumental deeds that came later."

What's that? You say you don't remember any of that happening? Strange: It was predicted in such detail in Millennials Rising, a book published in the year 2000 by the court astrologers of the social sciences, William Strauss and Neil Howe. At that point, Strauss and Howe had spent nine years flogging a generation-based theory of social change that had just enough believability to hook an audience and just enough hubris to spin such wild speculations.

With this book, they turned their attention to the lives and worldviews of the millennials, their word—yes, they're the ones who inflicted the term on us—for Americans born in the two decades following 1982. Looking back from 2014, how have those theories held up?

The saga of the uniforms was at least presented in conditional language: a tale that "may emerge," not one that was sure to happen. At other times Strauss and Howe didn't even include that caveat. Under millennial pop culture, they assured us, music will be more melodic, sitcoms will be more wholesome, and young people will turn against "the gothic genre" with its "pessimistic view of man as victim," since that species of story "reminds them of what they sometimes find irritating about older generations." (These changes "will be fully locked in" by 2010.) Millennial courtship rituals will stress "deference to parents." Economic class "will rise above gender or race as a flashpoint for student political argument." And the new generation will create a more common culture, reacting against the social fragmentation of previous decades. Somehow I missed those developments.

Even when Strauss and Howe's predictions came true, they sometimes managed to be right in ways that suggest their larger theory of historical cycles was wrong. "Youth voting rates will rise," they declared, and sure enough, the percentage of young people casting ballots rose in 2004 and again in 2008. Even so, the voting rate for 18- to 24-year-olds in 2008 was about the same as it had been when Generation Xers voted in 1992 and somewhat lower than when young boomers went to the polls in 1972—a sign that this might not be a break with prior generations after all. And in 2012, the rate started falling again.

The more sensible parts of the book came when the authors cooled down the breathless TED-talk prose ("Millennials will be a generation of trends") to present some survey data about young people's attitudes and give a refresher course on then-recent social history. It's always easier to describe the present than to predict the future, and the authors astutely note developments ranging from the rise of charter schools to an increased national focus on kids' safety.

When it comes to popular culture, though, they weren't even adept guides to what was then the present. Millennials Rising spends a lot of time trying to establish that the arrival of wholesome pop stars like Britney Spears (remember when Britney Spears was wholesome?) and retro styles like the '90s swing revival marked a major break with the "angry and alienated" music favored by Generation X. They seem unaware that the Xers bought their share of innocuous pop records in their teens too—poor Debbie Gibson and Tiffany, consigned to the ash heap of history—and they do not appear to have noticed that the swing revival was largely driven by Xers in their twenties and thirties, not millennials in their teens. And how did the authors deal with rap, today the dominant force in pop music? They reported it was "no longer connecting" with the young.

Underlying those failed forecasts you'll find a flawed theory. For Strauss and Howe, generations are a series of discrete units of roughly uniform size, one following another in a largely predictable pattern. A team-oriented "hero generation" does great deeds (like, say, winning World War II) and is followed by an "artist generation" born during the crisis. A post-crisis "prophet generation," like the baby boom, then leads an "awakening." Then we get a "nomad generation," like the Xers, and after that we're set for another cohort of heroes.

Our theorists nodded here and there to historical contingency—acknowledging, for example, that there is no rigid length to the period that constitutes a generation. They even decided, in the one great rupture in the cycle they think they've identified, that the U.S. skipped a hero generation in the middle of the 19th century. But they were confident enough in their pattern to make concrete predictions and to assign personalities to entire generations.

Those mass personalities, in fact, are central to how the book defined a generation in the first place. A generation, Strauss and Howe wrote, is "a society-wide peer group, born over a period roughly the same length as the passage from youth to adulthood (in today's America, around twenty or twenty-one years), who collectively possess a common persona." They accepted the existence of exceptions and edge cases, but they insisted a core persona is there.

Contrast that with Karl Mannheim's "The Problem of Generations," a 1923 essay that has become a touchstone for sociologists studying generational change. Like Strauss and Howe, Mannheim defined a generation not just by when its members were born but by the events that shaped their worldviews in their youth. Unlike Strauss and Howe, Mannheim did not write as though those events shape an entire generation the same way. Instead he wrote of different "generation units" with different reactions to their formative experiences. The Napoleonic wars, he elaborated, produced "two contrasting groups" in Germany, "one that became more and more conservative as time went on, as against a youth group tending to become rationalistic and liberal." (For a more recent example, consider the ways different American boomers reacted to the upheavals of the 1960s.) For Mannheim, those opposing units still belong to the same social cohort: "they are oriented toward each other, even though only in the sense of fighting one another." But they did not have the "common persona" that Strauss and Howe imagined.

Mannheim also had the sense to see that a biological generation "need not evolve its own, distinctive pattern of interpreting and influencing the world," since those biological rhythms will not necessarily be matched by a parallel set of influential historical moments. In a passage that should serve as a warning to anyone tempted by Strauss and Howe's schematics, he cautioned against "a sort of sociology of chronological tables…which uses its bird's-eye perspective to 'discover' fictitious generation movements to correspond to the crucial turning points in historical chronology."


Strauss and Howe assigned Americans to different generations as though they were drawing lines on a map, inserting artificial borders that obscure the gradual rolling changes that define so much of the landscape. They apply the label Generation X, for example, to everyone born from 1962 to 1981. Hailing from 1970, I fall smack into the middle of the cohort; and yes, I recognize myself in much of what the authors said about my peers. But I'm also acutely aware of the differences in perspective between me and those fellow Gen Xers who were born about a decade before or after.

Consider the period that came after the cultural revolutions of the '60s and before the heightened restrictions on minors' freedoms that began to arrive in the '80s. Americans who experienced this time as teenagers had rather different early lives than those of us who experienced it as preadolescents and then hit our teens in a more closely controlled epoch. The youngest Xers essentially missed it altogether, getting childhoods more like the millennials'.

I suspect that writers from Strauss and Howe's other generations could similarly divide their cohorts into finely cut segments, with some slices exerting more cultural pull than others. Some millennials were in college on 9/11; some were in elementary school; some weren't born yet. Do all these people really belong to the same generation at all, in Mannheim's sense of the word? Like the uniforms they failed to wear, their uniformity existed only in Strauss and Howe's heads.

NEXT: A.M. Links: Pentagon Preparing Military Options in Syria, CBC Members Want "Police Czar," Space Probe Crosses Orbit of Neptune

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  1. I for one (as an Xer) welcomed the term “millenials”. What they were using before, “Generation Y”, just irritated me, for the reasons that it had no real meaning and the pundits were being obnoxiously lazy in their search for a demographic definition.

    1. Oy! Again with the millenials.

      HnR is becoming the way the History Channel once was, with 24-hours-a-day of Hitler. For Reason, it’s millenials and abusive cops.

      I miss all the funny outrageous stories about what Statists are trying to pull next.

      Get off of my lawn!

      /Boomer rant

      1. “Again with the millenials…HnR is becoming the way the History Channel once was, with 24-hours-a-day of Hitler.”

        Millenials = *Worse than Hitler*?

        1. Millennials = Worse than Nicole?

      2. What I would like to see more of around here are cleverly-conceived proposals for solving specific public policy problems with libertarian solutions, but crafted in such a way as to “help make the medicine go down.” In other words, incremental, compromised proposals that make it hard for opponents to claim it’s some wacky extremist idea. Ideally, I’d like to see federalism used for “controlled” (as much as possible) experiments in which different ideas are tried at the same time.

    2. Sebastian . I just agree… Helen `s artlclee is astonishing, I just bought Chevrolet when I got my cheque for $6747 this-last/month and would you believe, ten k last-month . without a doubt it is the nicest work Ive had . I actually started 8-months ago and straight away made myself over $78, p/h .
      100% free registration——-

  2. I like the idea of thinking of generations in terms of “shared” events.

    The Kennedy assassinations, Vietnam War, and Beatlemania are unique events that the Boomer cohort remembers.

    Star Wars, the Challenger accident, HIV/AIDS are unique events that Xers remember.

    As a “Millenial” myself, I think of 9/11 as the key childhood memory we can all remember clearly.

    I’m not sure how these events shaped each generation. I’m not sure if this is truly the case, but after 9/11, it seemed as though military service was the most popular career for Millenials right out of high school. About 1/2 of the males that graduated from my high school between 2002 and 2008 signed up for armed service once they got their diplomas.

    1. “Star Wars, the Challenger accident, HIV/AIDS are unique events that Xers remember


      Because all i remember was Sean Penn dating Madonna, The Fall of the Berlin Wall, the president sticking a cigar inside an intern, and the OJ Simpson case. Everything else in world events was blurred by my intense crush on Tabitha Soren.

      1. As a Gen X’er myself, I can attest that Michael Jackson’s hair catching fire, the song Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, The final episode of Cheers, and Cleveland getting the Browns back are the shared events which unified us.

        1. I’ll ad watching the first Gulf War on TV, The Flannel Plague, and compact discs killing the art of the mix tape.

          1. pretty hard to dance with trolls to a CD, I suspect?

          2. Rodney King. Nintendo. MTV. Hulk Hogan.

        2. I’m 60 YO. Shared events that seemed profound to me:

          Cuban missile crisis
          Jets winning Super Bowl
          Mets winning World Series (1969)
          gas lines (1973)
          Nixon’s defense alert

          1. I remember
            Jets winning Super Bowl
            gas lines (1973)

            The Cuban Missile Crisis was before I was born. JFK was just the dead president on the 1/2 dollar,

            WTF is “Nixon’s Defense Alert”?

            1. The alert was something he announced during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war that seemed to be something he was doing to distract from Watergate. Had me worried about what he was pulling.

      2. Star Wars for sure. Star Trek Reruns. The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The Cars. Jaws. Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. Reagan and Iran-Contra. Eddie Murphy. Gorbachev, Glastnost, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Madonna and Springsteen. The Cosby Show. Kiss. Risky Business. Challenger. AIDS. Van Halen. The particularly terrible pop music of around 86-91 (Vanilla Ice, anyone?) Sam Kineson. Nirvana. Arsenio Hall. OJ. Clinton and Monica. Howard Stern.

    2. The Kennedy assassinations, Vietnam War, and Beatlemania are unique events that the Boomer cohort remembers.

      The Moon landing is the event you’re looking for. Late “boomers” have no first hand memory of the Kennedy Assassination or the Beatles coming to America. The last ones weren’t even born yet.

      1. I remember the Moon landing of course, but it didn’t impress me so profoundly because it was expected. Had the Russians done it & then announced it only afterward or in progress, that would’ve been at least a little more impressive.

        1. Actually, not only was the Moon landing expected, it was behind schedule. It should’ve been 1967 or 1968. By the time it finally occurred, it was old news.

    3. One shared event I think still echoes thru the centuries: the great plagues.

    4. The problem with that is that if you remember the Kennedy assassinations, etc., then you remember the rest of the items on your list.
      The thing isn’t what you have experienced, it’s what you haven’t experienced. But negative qualifiers never seem to have the emotional power of the positive ones.

      1. I may have been unusual in this as a child, but I actually grooved somewhat to JFK’s assassination. He’d scared me seriously with the missile crisis, and I saw it as payback. It kind of felt good that someone Mother idolized could be knocked off like that, so it wasn’t just kids who could have sudden disappointment; grownups were not in total control of things. I was just bugged that they took everything else off TV that weekend.

        1. I saw it as payback.

          “Chickens comin’ home to roost”

          1. At least karmically, I thought he deserved it. I couldn’t understand why grownups were so bothered. He was a head of state, people were supposed to get mad & shoot at him. Democracy by other means.

      2. Martin Luther King’s assassination was pretty big too. Nobody rioted when JFK was shot.

  3. Sounds like a plan to me dude. Wow.

  4. I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy;
    I see by your outfit you are a cowboy, too;
    We see by our outfits that we are both cowboys.
    If you get an outfit, you can be a cowboy, too.

  5. I think of 9/11 as the key childhood memory we can all remember clearly.

    Good lord. The end of humanity cannot come soon enough.

    1. He says that, but it’s really Pokemon.

      There’s the Before Pokemon, and After Pokemon

      1. Where in that timeline is the stage where the Pokemon company leadership complimented us on our huge American penises?

      2. This is true.

      3. I blame them Furbys.

  6. We need an article explaining why the word “Millenial” used to mean, “indicative of the coming end of the world, and how that relates to both the current generation of underemployed young narcissists, as well as Reason magazine.

    Even the soundtrack warning us about them was overhyped

    It used to be all you had to do was ‘Date Bjork’ and you were a big deal.

      1. Mashups are worse than hitler.

  7. When I was in junior high school, we actually still had dress codes. I’m not sure if any of that exists these days, but if it does, I’m sure it’s not the same as before.

    They actually had a code for boys hair. It couldn’t be beyond a certain length and this was determined by where it fell on ears or shirt collars, or something like that.

    So I got called on that and the old school marm is telling me I have to cut my hair because it doesn’t conform to the code.

    Having always been a curious child and a rational thinker, I had to ask the question “Ok, I know this is the rule, but why?”. The school marm became wide eyed with an incredulous look, like she couldn’t believe I actually asked that question. She stammered a little and then finally got out an exasperated “Because we have to have rules and regulations!”. No, I am not making this up, she actually said those exact words.

    I tried to wrap my mind around a logical explanation of this, and couldn’t. No, I decided right then and there that this was pure bullshit and that something was deeply flawed about our society.

    I suppose that was one of many ‘libertarian moments’ that I had growing up, part of a sort of slow awakening that transcended decades.

      1. I loved that song. I mean it’s not great music, but it could actually be the national anthem of Libertopia, lol.

      2. Ahh yes, they showed their independence by dressing so much alike. An excellent anthem for Demopublicans.

    1. When I was in first grade in 1966, a girl in our class got sent home for wearing pants to school. And this was a public school. Dresses or skirts, no dressing like boys with pants, please.

    2. I bypassed that stage entirely. I always knew that grownup rules were artificial arbitrary nonsense, but I had to pay lip service to them if I wanted to not be noticed so I could do my own thing in peace.

      A friend wanted me to join the cub scouts, said I could go camping and learn neat knots. I said I could do that without joining up, so there was no benefit, and he had no answer.

      Not a radical or revolutionary. I just wanted to go my own way. Always just sort of bounced through life, no real plan other than to slide around the grownups, who I now realize were some form of statist.

    3. LOL. So, a code for boys’ hair proved something was deeply flawed about our society.

      Perhaps it does, but not in the way you think. Your reaction is the flaw.

      1. Way to skip the actual substance of the post:

        The school marm became wide eyed with an incredulous look, like she couldn’t believe I actually asked that question. She stammered a little and then finally got out an exasperated “Because we have to have rules and regulations!”. No, I am not making this up, she actually said those exact words.

    1. I guess my question is, if Ukip gets into power, by some margin that they can actually control UK policy, then 2 questions:

      1. Will they actually drop out of the EU?

      2. Whether or not they drop out of the EU, what will/can they do to reverse course on the PC madness that has really fucked up that country?

      I don’t have any sort of grasp on the parliamentary system, I’m actually quite ignorant on that subject.

      1. Luckily, since they avoided the Euro, dropping out won’t be as big a deal as it would for other countries.

        1. Right, I knew they were still using the pound. Just curious if you think or anyone thinks/feels they will actually drop out of the EU.

      2. As far as 2) goes I imagine that if the UKIP assumes power somehow that they will run into the same problems that any reform-minded movement would.

        1) People don’t want you to touch their free shit and will react unfavorably if you are even perceived to be doing so

        2) A mass media industry that will actively work to erode their support as much as possible

        3) Entrenched bureaucrats whose livelihoods (and quite often and no less important their ideologies) are at risk will obstruct any attempts from their positions of power inside the government.

        It will take a catastrophe to see anything more than cosmetic change or minor adjustments to the progressive/socialist societal model.

        1. I’m thinking that by the time that they are all wearing burquas or answering the morning prayer calls, that it may be a wee bit late.

        2. As long as Feeney’s upset, I’m happy.

        3. It will take a catastrophe to see anything more than cosmetic change or minor adjustments to the progressive/socialist societal model.

          It always takes a catastrophe. People don’t just up and overcome their own inertia for shits and giggles. They have to be actively suffering in ways no amount of cognitive dissonance or brand loyalty can overcome.

          1. I think the Rotherham rapes would count as a “catastrophe” for the multicultural/mass immigration side there. Add that to the various other problems they’ve had with Muslim immigration, including UK Muslims going to fight with ISIS. The UK is already on a high terror alert. One more terror attack there, and you might see a groundswell against immigrants on benefits and immigration generally.

            1. One more terror attack there, and you might see a groundswell against immigrants on benefits and immigration generally.

              No. They are not intimidated or motivated to act by violence upon their persons. It will take a tangible, savage, and brutal threat to their cultural identity and way of life, on a such a scale to force cultural Balkanization into a nasty public light.

              If over a thousand children being raped won’t motivate them, you can imagine what it would take. Stiff upper lip, and all.

              1. I would not underestimate the political effect of all those child rapes. The effects are just now being felt, and I have no doubt that more such things will now emerge. The UKIP wants a five-year ban on new immigrants. I suspect support for that policy just jumped substantially.

        4. A mass media industry that will actively work to erode their support as much as possible

          That’s right. In fact, if UKIP gets into power, watch for bien pensant types to hold demonstrations calling for their college/city/state/country to divest from the UK.

      3. I believe their current plan is getting the Labour Party to promise an EU referendum.

      4. I wonder if the UK’s nanny state tendency is related to the BBC.

        1. Feedback loop.

      5. The problem with UKIP is that they don’t even have a plan on how to get the UK out, it’s just Farage, Farage, Farage.

      6. I think the question’s not whether they’ll drop out of the EU, but which will be the next country to drop out of it?

  8. ‘NHS doctors would not give Ashya the treatment we wanted’: Father who fled with brain tumour boy, 5, to Spain posts heartfelt video explaining move – but police say ‘no apology’ for arresting parents
    …’We just want to be left in peace. He’s very sick. I just want to get on with his treatment. I’m not coming back to England if I cannot give him the treatment I want, which is proper treatment. I just want positive results for my son.’

    In the video, Mr King told how they had wanted to leave the hospital because the NHS could not fund the proton beam treatment that they wanted for their son, but that he would raise the money to pay for it.

    ‘We couldn’t take it any more – not knowing and not being able to question anything in fear that they say, “Sorry Mr and Mrs King, emergency protection order, you’re no longer allowed in the ward”,’ he told the camera.

    ‘Under that stress, our son has grade four brain tumour, we couldn’t discuss or question them at all in fear that our son would be in that ward all day long by himself without his parents being able to come in.

    ‘We couldn’t be under that system any more. I was going to get the money to pay for the proton beam therapy but they have prevented that now because the Spanish police are involved and I can’t do want I wanted to do.’…

    1. Well, the government has to kill people for their own good, because, well just because, it’s not up to the plebes to question.

    2. This must be some other NHS. I was to understand that the NHS was the envy of the Western world.

    3. It’s not quite that simple. The kid was getting NO treatment while his parents were “raising the money” for the proton beam therapy. That can be a big problem for cancer patients, of course. And according to the article it’s possible that PBT wouldn’t help the kid anyway.

      It comes down to where you stand on parents’ rights to determine care for their children vs. the state’s obligation to protect children from dying because of their parents’ poor decisions.

  9. She stammered a little and then finally got out an exasperated “Because we have to have rules and regulations!”.

    Anarchy! Madness! Chaos!

    1. Madness was a term that actually entered my thoughts in the next few moments.

  10. I’ve always found generational labels annoying and barely descriptive. Asserting most people born between the years “X” and “Y” assume distinctive characteristics is, to me, only plausible if you’re taking an extremely long view. Too much happens in the world and to individual people to characterize such large groups in such a way. Maybe in very general ways cohorts are easily distinct from one another, but I would think that has more to do with technology, in the short-term.

    That said, I don’t think these guys believed much of what they wrote. I think they were just trying to make an easy dollar by abusing pop sociology and inventing trendy buzzwords.

  11. the heightened restrictions on minors’ freedoms that began to arrive in the ’80s

    I remember a big one that began in the 1970s in the USA: Towns started imposing youth curfews.

    1. The instant I knew society was doomed was in, (I believe) 1980, when PA passed a law giving pedestrians the right of way in crosswalks over cars.

      It’s been downhill ever since.

      1. The fuck?!

        1. ?

          My first libertarian moment.

          A law designed to make people safer that made absolutely no sense and actually makes people less safe.

          The less maneuverable should always have the right of way. In this case the car. Not to mention, who loses in the collision, the car or the pedestrian? So the onus of keeping the situation safe should be placed upon the one with the most skin in the game. Finally, it gives pedestrians a false sense of security. They have the law on their side, so they feel they can step off the curb any time they please, because it’s someone else’s responsibility to make sure I don’t get hurt…splat!

          A blow to individual responsibility.

          1. A few years ago in Noe Valley (a yuppieish neighborhood in SF) I had a 20-something mother in ponytail and shorts jog into a crosswalk in front of my car, pushing a baby carriage. I slammed on the brakes and avoided running them over, for which I got a dirty look from her.

            1. 4-way stop signs are also truly evil. Cant tell you how many times I’ve attempted to pull out in front of a moving vehicle at a two-way because I’ve been conditioned to believe everything is a 4-way. Another law that, I’m certain, has caused more accidents than it’s prevented.

              1. Yeah, that happened to me a while ago. I slammed on the brakes in time, as did the other driver, but it was nerve-wracking.

          2. There you go, blaming the victim.

  12. “How do you measure yourself against other golfers?”

    “By height.”

  13. OT: US Open is on right now, and Maria Sharapova is just the greatest. It’s not that she’s the prettiest girl – even at her height I’ve seen prettier – but something about her just scratches where I itch.

    1. Even at her height?!

      1. She’s 6’2″. I don’t see a lot of women that tall that are conventionally attractive. Me, I like tall women so I sometimes get weird looks from my friends in many cases.

        1. Alright. Carry on.

        2. For the record, “conventionally attractive” is a load of horseshit.

          1. That is the conventional wisdom.

          2. I’m only appealing to what I believe a “beauty consensus” might be. Skinny but not emaciated, not too pale, not too dark, and so on. Trust me, I scope out women who would never make a magazine cover.

            Sorry I offended.

            1. I’m not actually offended, don’t worry.

            2. Besides, a true libertarian never apologizes for offending.

    2. When I lived in Manhattan Beach, I would see Maria out and about. She’s pretty.

    3. Every time she’s on I want to reach through the screen and rip the cunt’s vocal cords out. She’s thoroughly obnoxious, and overrated in the looks department.

      But she apparently makes the target demographic masturbate, so she’s always gotten outsized coverage, even before she won Wimbledon and somebdoy like Justine H?nin was getting to #1.

      1. She’s thoroughly obnoxious, and overrated in the looks department.

        I think she’s really pretty, but if her off-the-cuff interactions with fans and press are any indication, she is not very pleasant. So yeah, what you said.

        1. I was thinking on court. And her “come ons” are right up there with Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal (who really is the worst of the lot, next to Nicole in the pantheon of badness) in how obviously phony and attempting to intimidate the opponent they are: it’s the sort of thing I would start imitating if I were playing against them.

          And here’s some fun footage of a crowd dealing with Sharapova.

          1. Ouch. That was hard to watch. But amusing.

    4. Maria Sharapova

      How do you stand all the noise?

    5. Very tall and pretty is hard to pull off. Geena Davis is 6′ and does it, though.

      1. Very tall and pretty is hard to pull off.

        Strangely enough, most of the women I know professionally pull this off. Hooray nurses?

        1. Lucky you!

  14. I propose that the key distinctive of millenials is actually the internet. We got email addresses before we got secondary sexual characteristics, and that has some massive social implications.

    Weak sexual norms, strong social allegiances based on identification rather than location or tradition, and a suspicion that hierarchies aren’t necessary for order proceed from that.

    1. ” a suspicion that hierarchies aren’t necessary for order proceed from that.”

      Yet a fetish for TOP MEN

      Because many young people still seem to insist to me that Obama is the bestest ever but its just the obstructionists who undermine him

      What could be more ‘heirarchical’ than handing over the entire healthcare industry to Big Daddy and assuming that Committees of Bureaucrats will make ‘better decisions’ for people than they do themselves?

      Maybe they don’t like ‘layers’ of hierarchy. Like, “Dont YOU tell me what to do = Obama said we’re all equal!”

      1. I don’t know many millenials who are gung ho for Obama post-Snowden. Their enthusiasm is largely confined to “yeah, but Romney was terrible.”

        The scariest power worshipper I know is a millenial, but he isn’t anything I haven’t seen from Gen X bloggers and Boomer politicians. He just happened to log onto a Marxist IRC channel in 1998 and stayed there.

        1. “Their enthusiasm is largely confined to …”

          The “Meh” Generation

      2. I noticed the same “daddy please fix this scary thing” impulse from my generation at that age. I think that is as much a function of their current age as anything else. It remains to be seen if cultural trends influence it to persist longer, persist less, or have no real effect on the percentage that with latch on to the Top Men worldview.

        If 75% of your life experience includes an authority figure that has a over-sized effect on your life, consequences of your actions, etc then the data set from which you operate is going to be skewed to Top Manism. As life experience provides data showing that such a starting position leads to sub-optimal outcomes then the base reasoning can change.

        1. This is a good observation. And Top Manism is likely to go away as you get life experience and realize how stupid the Top Men are. What if millenials just look more dependent because so many of us have been kept in college and out of the job market for so much longer?

        2. ” I think that is as much a function of their current age as anything else.”

          I don’t buy it at all.

          i have a very strong memory of exactly how cynical my generation was @ 18, when Bill Clinton was running in 1992, and ‘Rock the Vote’ was all over MTV, and most people believed that now that the Berlin Wall was down that US politics was all going to be down to ‘how much blood can they suck from us now’

          … the cool-kid thing to do was vote for Ross Perot. Because he was funny.

          There was none of this combination of ‘political idealism’ and ‘Social Justice Warrior’ bullshit among young people in the 90s. The Political Correctness fad was something imposed on college kids by politicized-elders trapped in Academia, and the popular POV was to reject it completely. “Feminism” wasn’t some cushy liberal-academic Nanny-poo poo bullshit = it was Riot Grrls. There was no ‘rape panic’ or pretenses about ‘solving inequality’; there was no endless censuring each other for having the wrong POV on “Trannies”.

          yes, the young all have their own version of ‘naive and enthusiastic’ = but the qualities of it can be entirely different. If there’s anything distinctive about this crop, its their projection of a helicopter-parent “Scolding Nanny” mentality, where we have armies of SJW trying to explain to us “here’s why that’s a problem” …

          1. Progressives want you to think that trans rights and their victimologist bullying are the same thing. Don’t buy it. Trans rights are a libertarian issue.

            I will agree that parents my age are fucking terrifying, and reflect some serious psychological trauma. When the next generation of politicians figures out how to channel millenial parenting anxiety into legislation, it’s going to be a disaster.

            1. When the next generation of politicians figures out how to channel millenial parenting anxiety into legislation, it’s going to be a disaster.

              Well, that’s it for me. I’m taking boner-suppressant drugs.

          2. Also, remember how anti-drug and pro-internet censorship the mainstream narratives were back then, even when the left was considerably saner and more liberal than they are now? (Maybe I don’t–I was in first grade.) But I somehow doubt there’s a lot there that can be disambiguated from selection bias.

          3. GILMORE nothing you wrote really has anything to do with what I wrote.
            Additionally the things that you declare to have not existed when we were 18 did in fact exist. You can find books written about rape culture by feminists of that time. You could have taken classes about social justice. These are examples of idea that gained cultural traction and became more accepted. There were movements that were more mainstream but have fizzled and are considered fringe now. Remember the Ebonics push? What you are talking about is the differences in the details of a mentality, not the mentality itself Those details aren’t even as different as you recall them.

            What did not exist when we were 18 were the social media and communication tools that exist today to facilitate the influence of such thinking. It’s not that the kids of our generation were so different but that it was harder to accomplish the same goals. If I wanted to make my opinion known to 10,000 people about my horror about say, the Waco siege I couldn’t just pick up my phone and hit a few keys and disseminate it in a few moments. It took a lot more effort, and that had a restraining influence on the effects of that youthful enthusiasm.

            I believe that there are certainly important differences between the millenials and the generations that came before it. But I think that they are less (though not completely) about character and more about how the same characteristics interact with very different circumstances.

            1. All threads mentioning SJWs should include this:


            2. “Additionally the things that you declare to have not existed when we were 18 did in fact exist.”

              If they did, they were kept in rightful obscurity by an appropriate degree of contempt and mockery. I sincerely disagree that much-more-ado would have been made about ‘learning ebonics’ had only there been more-fluid social media available.

              I don’t disagree that the circumstances dictate a great deal of what gets highlighted. Or that the ubiquity of cellphones, the internet/social media, etc. are significant influences.

              I disagree that “had circumstances been similar, much of the differences would be nullified”

              Because I think the source of the cultural differences between my generation and the following one have less to do with “The Internet”, and much more to do with Their Parents. (Boomers)

              My experience living around millenial kids for the last decade or so has given me the impression that the differences are far less superficial than you seem to allow. But whatever. Maybe my problem is I lived in Williamsburg, neck-deep in hipsters.

    2. But I bet you got primary sex characteristics before you got secondary e-mail addresses.

      1. And vowed that my child would never have to suffer the same way that I did.

        1. A gmail account for every fetus!

    3. Sounds about right. Anyone born before 1982 would have hit puberty before getting their first Internet account, hence Generation X.

      And anyone born after 2000 or so has, figuratively speaking, had a surveillance camera pointed at them from the day they were born and has no memory of a time before that. That would be where Generation Z starts, or whatever they’re called now.

  15. Worth noting =

    i keep running across people in their late 20s/early 30s who have a blog and whose self-administered title is “Generation Y Expert

    This seems to consist of doing a lot of twittering.

    Mirror, mirror, on the wall….

  16. I was hoping there would be some information about what millennials thought of this book.

    1. Millenials read books that aren’t Harry Potter or Twilight?

      1. Millenials read books

        Some of them do, sure. The same sad sacks from every generation who love words and stories told with words.

        Most of them read crap and write even worse, but it’s always been that way.

        Not that Harry Potter was crap. JK worked hard and has good editors.

  17. The real problem is the ongoing, increasing infantilization of successive generations.

    There was a time that young men and women struck out on their own — go to work, an apprenticeship, etc. — sometimes before they had even reached puberty. The difference then was that they largely had the life-skills necessary to be (mostly) independent. However, as technology has advanced, the life-skills and cultural requirements (e.g.: more and more jobs that never required higher education require degrees now) to be (mostly) independent, now, are more… complicated.

    Consequently, we have young adults dependent on their parents later and later into life; and as long as they are dependent we treat them, culturally, as though they are still children. And our young people, increasingly, rise to that expectation. Their ability to “take care of themselves” is stunted; they’re rarely prepared for adulthood even when they reach 30; and, so, in increasing numbers, they clamor for the Adult Supervision of Government.

  18. Strauss and Howe do not say that entire generations of people are the same. What they say is that people “age in place” with their generations. You don’t grow up to have your parents’ life, because you live your life stages in a different time, and generally, 20 years is a good buffer to ensure a wholly identifiable experience. Sure you can slice cohorts closer, and Strauss and Howe do, by pointing out how different parts of generations experienced events in different ways.

    I found Generations: The Future of America’s History to be a stronger book. I also have The Fourth Turning, their book about the crisis period they predicted to happen now, back in the 90s. I think these guys are strong, but not infallible. Prediction is hard to do with precision. I think they are right that Millennials are more civic-minded in their personal and career pursuits than Gen X-ers. I also think they are right that Millennials are institution-builders. They might have been wrong in predicting the exact level of conformity. But I think the joke that the Hipster is a person who is like everyone else by being unlike everyone else, demonstrates their educated guesses in the 90s to be a bit more prescient than Jesse believes.

    1. Strauss and Howe do not say that entire generations of people are the same.

      Just to repeat:

      A generation, Strauss and Howe wrote, is “a society-wide peer group, born over a period roughly the same length as the passage from youth to adulthood (in today’s America, around twenty or twenty-one years), who collectively possess a common persona.” They accepted the existence of exceptions and edge cases, but they insisted a core persona is there.

      I think the joke that the Hipster is a person who is like everyone else by being unlike everyone else, demonstrates their educated guesses in the 90s to be a bit more prescient than Jesse believes.

      The joke predates the millennials by a long time.

      1. The Elissa Jane Karg book is great, but it’s odd and disappointing that someone so perceptive about conformity could become a life-long socialist.

      2. I liked http://www.absurdintellectual……onform.jpg from 1959. Now that I look at it again, the MAD NON-CONFORMISTS’ taste in music matches the programming at WFMU.

    2. I think these guys are strong, but not infallible. Prediction is hard to do with precision.

      Without precision it’s pretty worthless. Any idiot can predict that there’s going to be a boom and a bust and a war and a peace in the future, the question is when.

      And of course, they don’t carefully define what a “crisis” really is. WW1 — the biggest sea change in history the world had seen to that point — gets plunked into “unraveling”, not “crisis”. The Cold War, a much, much bigger deal than the WoT, winds up in a “high” and an “awakening”. And 9/11 and the Iraq War came before the “crisis” period they predicted to begin in 2005.

      1. Bingo. Their framework is all broad stereotyping and shoe horning.

        Going back even further, 1876-1877 was a major turning point in American history. Crazy Horse, the Great Sioux War and Battle of Little Bighorn, the Molly Maguires, the Great Railroad Strike, the end of Reconstruction. Organized labor as we know it today, and Jim Crow both date from then.

        Where does 1877 fit in the Strauss and Howe narrative? It doesn’t. They have 1877 in the middle of a “high”. Had they had their “crisis” end in 1877 instead of 1865 it would have thrown off their dates for the next turnings.

  19. I saw the title. How meta?

  20. Watch a few episodes of “JayWalking” or “Water’s World,” and I think it becomes apparent just how diverse a generation may be, and how irrelevant the term is. Karl Mannheim’s observations are much more accurate, as everyone within a so-called generation views the events differently. Take one example, the Kennedy assassination for instance. To some it remains — all these years later — a great mystery surrounded by an Oliver Stonesque conspiracy. To me, it’s an open and shut case of a lone, looney nut job with a rifle. It’s sad, but there’s little mystery remaining about the gross nature of the event.

  21. But what do the millennials themselves think? Has anyone thought of commissioning a poll, and reporting the results here in Reason?

  22. Olivia . you think Elaine `s st0rry is inconceivable, last week I bought a top of the range Ariel Atom since I been earnin $9671 thiss month and-over, ten-k this past-munth . it’s by-far the most comfortable work Ive had . I began this six months/ago and immediately began to bring in more than $71, per hour .
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  23. I’d like to know the differences in world view between older and younger millennials. As a fairly older millennial (29) I think that we grew up in a completely different world as compared to our younger counterparts.

  24. BREAKING NEWS: “Generations” are Entirely Arbitrary!

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  26. Ah yes. Strauss and Howe. The Beltway’s favorite junk historians. “Court astrologers”, I like that.

    Very Serious People inside the Beltway LOVE Strauss and Howe. Their predictions are almost all war and security oriented, although Neil Howe’s Concord Coalition views are also there. But apart from warnings about the need to trim the federal debt most of their predictions read like a creepy Beltway wish list, something Al Gore, Newt Gingrich, Barack Obama, and John McCain can all get behind.

    Cheerful Millennials donning school uniforms and accepting mandatory national service, then marching to war when the Grey Champion Boomers decide it’s time to cleanse the planet of (pick one or more: global warming, terrorists, Russians, Muslims, North Koreans, privacy, drugs, fossil fuels, white male cis het privilege, guns, 44 ounce sodas, threats to The Chiiillldren, whatever). :puke:

    They were admittedly onto something with the alternating spiritual awakenings and secular crises of about 40 years apart, though that is hardly an original observation.

    But repeating generational types? Not buying it. Their generational types are broad stereotypes. Ignore the court historians and do some research on the real “GI Generation” and you will find young adults were as rebellious as Boomers were in the Sixties and as scrappy and nomadic as the Lost Generation or Generation X. And many of the Boomers I grew up around were obnoxious boy scouts.

  27. I am just hoping we Gen Xers are either wrong or overly concerned that Millenials seem to be a bunch of nut hugging conformists. I can’t remember a generation that parrots its parents and peers’ PC world view more than the Millenials. I guess I should be happy that they seem to have bought into the the wisdom of their elders. The problem is their elders aren’t all that smart about the world. They just think they are. Just look at the the failed ideas of the past getting play nowadays.

    The sixties generation took pissing off their parents to new heights through protests and political activism. The Gen Xers took to pissing off their hippie parents by not giving a shit. Perhaps Millenial’s conformity is exactly what is needed to piss off Gen X parents?

    Perhaps the way in which we piss off our parents is how we should define generations, not necessarily by the world events in our lives and the decades we were born.

  28. Anyone think Millenials prefer the term “Free Market” to “Capitalism” mostly because they associate it with something they can get for free?

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