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Generational Change

Martin Kohli

Subject Sociology » Social Movements

Key-Topics age

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


In its most obvious sense, generational change means change occurring along succeeding generations, showing up in differences between them. In a more fundamental sense, it expresses the idea that social change needs to be understood in terms of the sequence of generations, and is to a considerable extent driven by their dynamics. The concept of generation can be defined with regard to society or to family – two levels which are usually analyzed separately but should be treated in a unified framework ( Kohli & Szydlik 2000 ). At the level of the family, generation refers to position in the lineage. At the societal level, it refers to the aggregate of persons born in a limited period (i.e., a birth cohort according to demographic parlance) who therefore experience historical events at similar ages and move up through the life course in unison. At both levels, the concept of generation is a key to the analysis of movement across time. In the sequence of generations, families and societies create continuity and change with regard to parents and children, economic resources, political power, and cultural hegemony. In all of these spheres generations are a basic unit of social reproduction and social change – in other words, of stability over time as well as renewal (or sometimes revolution). In some “simple” traditional societies without centralized political power and class-based ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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