Commenting on the work of Neil Howe and William Strauss, he writes:
Their theory is that a four-generation cycle has repeated itself throughout American history. An individualistic, hedonistic one follows an idealistic, individualistic generation. It is then followed by a civic-minded, communally oriented one, which is followed by a communally oriented, negotiating one. This generation is followed once again by an idealistic, individualistic one. With each generation encompassing a 20-year span, this adds up to a new one approximately every 80 years.
Each generation reacts to or against the successes, failures and legacies of previous ones. For instance, individualistic generations react against the stifling civic culture of previous generations, and the civic generations rebuild institutions and communal identity weakened by individualistic generations.
Some of his summary of the Baby Boom generation is relevant to the Episcopal Church, but I don’t think we have much of a Tea Party contingent. He writes:
As teens and young adults, Boomers were foot soldiers in the civil rights movement, protested the Vietnam War, removed a paranoid and corrupt president, paved the way for freer sex and individual expression, and restarted a stagnant economy by spurring an individualistic entrepreneurial spirit. In their older age, having become more conservative, they have sparked the religious evangelical and libertarian Tea Party movements. Whatever movement they triumphed, it was always focused on the individual.
Throughout their lifespan they have been mostly uncompromising: “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” “Hell no, I won’t go,” “Trickle-down economics,” “Deficits don’t matter” and “Government is the problem.” In general they have approached the world ideologically, seeing compromise as a weakness. Throughout their lifespan they have divided society, including religion. It’s no accident that all Protestant religious denominations are rapidly splitting, led by a mostly Boomer leadership.
Our Baby Boomer leaders are so certain of their rightness, whether on the right or the left (on the left as teens and young adults and mostly now on the right), that they have led us into a constant cultural division by refusing to look for pragmatic answers to our Boomer-inspired crises.
Thoughts? Generational sociology tends to be a bit reductive, but that isn’t to say it isn’t sometimes insightful.