Do ‘Global Generations’ Exist? : From Mannheim to Beck and Beyond

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Thorpe , C & Inglis , D 2019 , ' Do ‘Global Generations’ Exist? From Mannheim to Beck and Beyond ' , Youth and Globalization , vol. 1 , no. 1 , pp. 40-64 . https://doi.org/10.1163/25895745-00101003

Title: Do ‘Global Generations’ Exist? : From Mannheim to Beck and Beyond
Author: Thorpe, Christopher; Inglis, David
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Sociology
Date: 2019-05-24
Language: eng
Number of pages: 25
Belongs to series: Youth and Globalization
ISSN: 2589-5745
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/303853
Abstract: There is today persistent debate in journalism and politics about social generations. Social scientists point out that young(er) people across the planet today seem to be in increasingly similar socio-economic, political and cultural situations. These involve shared forms of experience, as well as means of dealing with often highly challenging circumstances. A major debate at the intersection of social theory, globalization studies and youth studies is whether it makes sense to say that ‘younger’ people across the world today constitute one single ‘global generation’. Such ideas have been promoted by leading social theorists like Bryan S. Turner and Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim. The analysis of social generations stretches back to Karl Mannheim’s pioneering statements in the 1920s. It has been argued that the Mannhemian tradition is in many ways outdated, and needs to be subjected to profound refurbishment, so that it may better understand cross-border, trans-national, ‘cosmopolitan’ phenomena, involving global generations and the forces and mechanisms which create them. This paper argues that claims about ‘global generations’ made by the theorists are muddled, especially in terms of conflating generations and age cohorts, and are often deterministic. The problems derive partly from imperfect readings and usages of Mannheim’s original ideas. It is shown that these are much more ‘cosmopolitan’ and attuned to cultural phenomena than critics allege. While the paper is sceptical as to the potential of the global generations concept in general, nonetheless the ongoing relevance of Mannheim for future endeavours to improve uses of it are underlined.
Subject: 5141 Sociology
Generations
Youth
Globalization
Social theory
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