The Concept of Generation


Many researchers in the field of sociology, psychology, and philosophy often look at the concept of generation as a group of people who were born and lived at the same time. This concept is linked with the notion of time. The essence of this concept plays an important role in different researches and studies. Different researchers have different views on the concept of generation. The understanding of its nature and specificity, as well as the way in which social differentiation takes place, can allow understanding the trends of changes from generation to generation, and their dependence on various external factors. Studying the concept of generations is quite an important task because today it is susceptible to significant changes in relation to its parameters and duration of the process compared to the past. In order to understand the extent of the changes happening in the societies around the world, the concept of generations should be defined, as well as their sequencing, and connections between them should be discussed.


The Concept of Generations and Relationships between Them

People give multiple meanings of the term generation, due to different views on its purpose. The most common definition of generation is the one that defines it as a set of members of society who were born at the same time. In other words, it means the combination of peers, who make up a layer of society based on age. The generation can be considered as a time period that has the characteristic features in the way of thinking, the level of scientific and technological development, the method of construction of social institutions. Also possible to use this term as a differentiation in the family chain, in which the son, father, and grandfather are the representatives of different generations. Similarly, the term also is defined as a gap between the representatives of the family chain, for example, between the son and the father. Moreover, it is possible to say that a generation is a term that describes the trends of certain events with historical significance, as well as people who have common life orientation.

Considering the generation as representative of a certain timeframe, or the prism of family hierarchy, it is worth noting generations are linked with each other. This connection may have a spiritual nature. Furthermore, common traditions can link the generations. On a subconscious level, the principles of cultural identity are engraved in the mentality of every man. They serve not only as a cultural heritage and as patrimony of the nation, but can also drive youngsters to respect older generation, as well as motivate them to be responsible for future generations. In addition, this relationship can be formed under the influence of blood ties between generations, and a kinship between them. Another important factor that can influence the creation of links between generations is a natural desire to share and gain life experiences. This aspiration to pass the learned lessons, useful and essential information on the future generations can be seen in the framework of family relationships and with respect to the scientific and cultural spheres of life activities.

Rights and Obligations of Generations

Each generation has a number of obligations to their predecessors and successors. First, every person is duty bound to preserve its cultural and spiritual heritage, as well as properly use the innovative potential, which was granted by predecessors. Furthermore, people need to remember all the important achievements of their predecessors, as well as respect and appreciate them. They must keep the information about the precursors for those who will come after them, namely to ensure an objective complete historical record. Liabilities to subsequent generations include primarily the retention, and if possible, the improvement of the environment. Moreover, their obligation is preservation and enhancement of the knowledge, the material, spiritual, and cultural values, which were inherited from the previous generations.

Such aspects of our society as morality and ethical foundations have a beneficial effect on the interactions between the generations. For example, mutual respect between people of different generations can make their communication more effective and constructive. When the principle of respect for older people is a fundamental in the society, then it guarantees the attention to and admiration of each side of the “dialogue.” At the same time, if such traits are inherent in the society as openness, tolerance and readiness to accept a new look at things, in particular, in the representatives of the younger generation, then the communication between the generations is improved. The counterproductive aspect of this issue includes the decline in confidence in the instructions from the previous generations due to their relevance. Conversation between the generations can interfere with the fact that people are at different stages of life. The experience of success and failure that they have is different, so people can differently on many things that the burghers finding points of contact. In other words, different views on life situations and life in general are an obstacle in conversation and cause conflict situations. The existence of a certain rebelliousness and understatement of the value of the life experience, which may guide a new generation, endangers the possibility of conversation between the parties.

Analyzing Laslett words “duties go forwards in time, but rights go backwards” can be attributed to the problem of relationships between the generations in the family. He wanted to say that parents have duties towards their children, granting them with rights. Accordingly, those rights that children have towards their parents are interrelated with the obligations, which they will have to their future children. In other words, he wanted to emphasize the link between rights and obligations that parents and children have to each other. Besides, in such a way Laslett has shown a link between what one generation receives and what it has to give to next generation.

As a member of my generation, I have many obligations and rights. My obligations include the aspirational and purposeful activities to benefit my generation and society as a whole, as well as to create the favorable conditions for future generations. To take into account previous mistakes and learn from them is our sacred duty. Moreover, my duty towards new generations is to become a good example for them to follow. By bringing up children properly, instilling in them the correct moral and ethical principles, and giving them a good education, a person contributes in laying a solid foundation for future generations and society. This also applies to a number of commitments. The respect of older generations helps them to perform their duties. We must preserve what we have left from predecessors and pass it on future generations. Speaking of rights, our generation has the right to use competently the available resources, while taking into account their limitations. We have the right to use the knowledge and the lessons of history that our ancestors left. The right to conversion or formation of a new social order in accordance to the modern realities also is up to us. The conservatism is not always appropriate, so the present generation has the right to adjust the lifestyle and the social order, which are inevitable changes in the framework of the evolutionary processes.

An understanding of these rights and obligations is grafted primarily in educational process. Parents and society engrave these principles in the consciousness of man. The inner circle of acquaintances inspires the young generation by talking about them directly and emphasizing their importance. Moreover, they can influence children indirectly, by setting an example or sharing their worldviews, which pushes men to come to similar conclusions. A person is aware of these rights and obligations not only because of the family and because of people close to him/her but also due to the influence of generally accepted social norms, principles, and rules that exist in society. The information available may also have an impact. These sources may include television and radio broadcasting, the press, literature, cinema, and theater. It means that every person who is exposed consciously or unconsciously to the information and media as well as people who surround him/her forms an understanding of rights and responsibilities as a representative of his/her generation.

The Intelligence of Generations

Considering the concept of generations, it is necessary to pay attention to the term called the generation intelligence. This concept represents the overall level of intellectual abilities of the representatives of a particular generation. It is a state of the mental development, the informational and cultural progress that has occurred during the timeframe of a given generation. The generation intelligence can be determined with the help of the analysts, and the most distinguished and talented minds of generations, such as scientists, inventors, and writers. On the contrary, this concept can be determined with help of a statistical study, which determines the general level of intelligence and mental development of an average person of a particular generation. Anyway, this indicator shows the overall picture the intelligence parameters and the significance of the accomplishments the generation has made.

A Sense of Belonging to a Generation

Not everyone feels as part of his/her generation, and comfortably coexist in the social conditions of a particular period. People sometimes feel disengaged or simply do not feel that they belong to a certain generation. If a person feels that he/she belongs to his/hers generation, then he/she must be comfortable in his/her surrounding. In addition, the support and acceptance of existing social principles and regulations, understanding of the philosophy of reality will contribute to the feeling of belonging. The perception of the world is similar to what other members of the same generation have contributes to the feeling that he/she lives in the appropriate time. In other words, if a person agrees with the way the world works today, if he/she shares its priorities and accepts the fundamental moral and ethical principles, and if his/her self-awareness is similar to that of his peers, then he/she may feel to be a member of his/her generation.

Sometimes, people categorically disagree with many things that are happening in their lifetime. The fact that their views do not correspond to the standards may make them think that they are strangers among their generation. It leads to the inner disharmony. Often, the conflict of interest may arise in the sphere of the political views. When a person feels a sense of internal inconsistency with his/her generation, then he/she can be critical or even hostile towards political issues. A person who may not agree with what is happening in society is aware that namely political activity often has a direct impact on the society and its condition, although it is not a single determining factor. Therefore, it can be an obstacle between such person and a political institution. Thus, if a person feels odd among other representatives of his generation, it affects his attitude towards political issues.

The Issue of Aging

When analyzing the relationship between the generations, it becomes evident that it is related to the study of aging. By studying this aspect, sociologists suggest that a number of the social changes accompany aging. As people become older, they change their status and role in society. They move on the social axis from the status of the new generation to the seniors. Thus, aging can be considered as development stages of the generation, its late maturity. From the perspective of aging, the intergenerational relationships are the form of mentoring. The older generation tends to share their knowledge and experience, while not missing the opportunity to influence the processes of formation of new and more advanced social institutions. Sometimes, older people can take the authority to intervene in the lives of younger generations, thinking that they have the right to do as they have seen in the lives much more. This often causes a negative reaction and is a breeding ground for conflicts. The feedback in this case can be respectful, but at the same skeptical and critical in the process of analyzing the information received from the previous generations. 

Moody said that people are thinking about “life as a whole”, and often focus on “the unity of human life”. Considering those statements, is possible to suggest that he was talking about the fact that people do not divide their lives into periods. They do not see it as a change in the age stages. In the context of generations, his position can be interpreted as follows. People do not differentiate the lifetime, and so they may use this period as a unit of measure within the changes of generations. At the same time, they exclude the possibility to consider each life period as separate piece. For example, if we consider the childhood and maturity separately, it gives the opportunity to observe the implementation of the different social roles of the person. In addition, it can be assumed that a person being at different stages of life becomes a representative of a different generation. This approach makes it possible to observe the modifications and make a projection about the process of the evolution of the generation to which a person belongs.

The smooth transitioning and its complex nature contribute to the perception of life as a whole. Such aspect as the cyclical life process also contributes to this. Moreover, the fact that our memory does not structure the stages of change in a clear way, and instead builds the overall picture of the human existence plays an important role. It can makes us think that life has unified, holistic character. On the other hand, the existence of different worldviews at different ages, various ways of perception at each stage of life may interfere with achieving a sense of integral life. The way people perceive, for instance, the economic issues, when they are six, eighteen, thirty-one and fifty-six years, proves the fact that they look at this issue differently in each life period. Perhaps, this goal can be desirable because, in this case, life is perceived as a long period, filled with different memories and moments. However, the differentiation of the life stages enables to estimate its specific periods as independent parts. It can be desirable to perceive life as a complex structure with upstream, but with different components. The reason of this is that person may have a hard time in his mature years, but happy childhood and carefree youth, that contribute to the general positive feeling about his/her life experience. It is realizable and its implementation depends on the kind the philosophical point of view a person chooses, from his perception of life itself.

In my understanding, old age is a stage, when a person has already reached certain peaks and completed the stage of maturity, as well as has developed completely. Old age is characterized by a decline in all sorts of activities, the decrease the organism productivity and in mental abilities. At the same time, a person at this stage is full of experience and wisdom of life. These conclusions are based on the personal observations of the elderly people. Moreover, these conclusions can be found in various sources, including literature and biological, sociological and psychological training manuals.

I agree with what Townsend said about the elderly. According to him, the elderly have a high self-esteem, based on such traits as stable character, developed skills and abilities, as well as the authority that they have earned among their peers. They really have every reason to be confident in themselves and their position in society. The way they see other people of their age also is quite realistic. They see others as identical to themselves and virtually equal. It promotes the sense of identification with their social group. In addition, older people can have a sense of loneliness, even within the family. This can be explained by the fact that they see themselves both as representatives of an era that has passed and as reflections of the past.

Such expectations of aging are normal for me. It is a natural process of human development. In my opinion, old age is the final point, when a person can objectively judge what he has achieved, what path he took, what he learned and what he had cognized. Men, being in old age, do not have the need to compete with others, are not afraid be not smart, rich, or successful enough. Specifically this contributes to their confidence. Perhaps, strive to identify and equalize themselves with their peers is a certain mean of protection and for achieving comfort. However, I do not welcome the loss of individuality even under such circumstances. Conversely, older people are at the peak of their uniqueness, as their consciousness is filled with the invaluable experience and the memories of many events, useful conclusions, and lessons of life. In the end, I agree that old age sums up of a human life.

Those expectations of aging can come from the sociological researches. The issue of aging and the specifics of behavior and psychological processes in the elderly are frequent targets of different studies. It is possible that these conclusions are based on the data obtained through scientific experiments, questionnaires, and observations. Moreover, people perceive this information through the publications of the results of such researches. Sometimes, people forget where they got these expectations and, thus, consider them as a fact. These expectations affect my perception of years that lead to my old age. I see them as the exhaustible resource that I have to use properly. Also, it makes them more valuable, emphasizing their irrevocability. No one knows exactly what interval of time separates man from old age, because it has no clear boundaries start. It makes me appreciate the years that are left before aging.

Scientific interest in the study of generations and the relationship between them has arisen a long time ago. The term generation may have a different semantic load, and be construed from different sides. The question of relationships and conflicts between the generations has not lost its relevance. Considering the question of generations, it is necessary to pay attention to the rights and obligations that the representatives of different generations have to each other. Perception and awareness of the rights, obligations and patterns of behavior within these relationships, people get from the close circle of friends and family, as well as under the influence of generally accepted norms and principles of the society in which they live. Whether a person sees himself a part of his generation or not affects the internal comfort. In addition, it can show how his generation is formed and conflicts of interest that exist within it. By studying people as separate components of a generation that they represent, it is possible to form an overall picture in order to find out the distinctive characteristics and the problematic sides. Therefore, the study of various aspects generation, in particular, the psychological and social aspects is significant.

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