By Zygmount Bauman
Social Europe Journal, 17-1-2010
Every generation has its measure of outcasts. There are people in each generation assigned to the outcast status because a “generation change” must mean some significant change in life conditions and life demands likely to force realities to depart from expectations implanted by the conditions-quo-ante. These changes devalue the skills they trained and promoted, and therefore render at least some among the new arrivals, those not flexible or prompt enough to adapt to the emergent standards, ill-prepared to cope with novel challenges and unarmed to resist their pressures. It does not however happen often that the plight of being outcast may stretch to embrace a generation as a whole. This may, however, be happening now.
Several generational changes have been noted during the post-war history of Europe. There was a ‘boom generation’ first, followed by two generations called respectively X and Y; most recently (though not as recently as the shock of the collapse of Reaganite/Thatcherite economy), the impending arrival of the ‘Z’ generation was announced. Each of these generational changes arise from more or less traumatic events; in each case a break in continuity and a necessity of sometimes painful readjustments, caused by a clash between inherited/learned expectations and unanticipated realities, were signalled. And yet, when looking back from the second decade of the 21st Century, we can hardly fail to notice that when confronted with the profound changes brought about by the latest economic collapse, each one of those previous passages between generations may well seem to be an epitome of inter-generational continuity…
...read the rest of the article on the Social Europe Journal
*Zygmunt Bauman is Emeritus Professor at the University of Leeds and one of Europe’s foremost sociologists. He is author of 'Liquid Modernity' (Polity 2000) and many other books on contemporary society. His most recent books are "44 letters from the liquid-modern world" and "Living on borrowed Time" (with Citlali Rovirosa-Madrazo).