Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Generation X is a term used in demographics, the social sciences, and more broadly in popular culture. It generally consists of persons born in the 1960s and 1970s, although the exact dates of birth defining this age demographic are highly debated. It has also been described as a generation consisting of those people whose "teen years touched the 1980s," born after baby boomers.
Though popularly associated with the people born during 1961 – 1981, in the broader socio-economic perspective the concept of ‘Generation X’ describes those people who grew up in a period of transition (1945 – 1990), beginning with the end of World War II and the decline of colonial imperialism - to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. Thus, the experience of a global transition between colonialism and globalization, brings together roughly two diverse generations -- the baby boomers and the baby busters-- under the rubric of "Generation X".
For a list of prominent members of Generation X, see List of Generation Xers.
The origin of the term
The term was coined as the title of a 1964 study of British youth by Charles Hamblett and Jane Deverson . Originally, Deverson was asked by a women's magazine editor to conduct a series of interviews with teenagers of the time. The picture of disaffected youth that emerged was a new phenomenon and was deemed unsuitable for the magazine: the book was the result.
The phrase was picked up as the name of a punk rock band featuring the young Billy Idol. It was later popularized in the book Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, by Douglas Coupland, who took the X from Paul Fussell's 1983 book Class, where the term "class X" designated a region of America's social hierarchy, rather than a generation. However, this term has transcended its roots in that country and expanded into other areas of the West.
Concepts of Generation X
The western dimension
As Coupland explained in a 1995 interview, "In his final chapter, Fussell named an 'X' category of people who wanted to hop off the merry-go-round of status, money, and social climbing that so often frames modern existence." It was after the publication of Coupland's book that the term began being used as a name for the generation by the media, who introduced Generation X as a group of flannel-wearing, alienated, overeducated, underachieving slackers with body piercing, who drank franchise-store coffee and had to work at McJobs.
In the developing world
Generation X in its conception is originally a western concept, although Japan has its own version of Generation X. Developing countries, which make up the vast majority of the global population, have a generation X that differs from that in the West, due to poor education and little disposable income. However, the version of generation X that the developing nations experience essentially came out of the end of World War II and the subsequent decline of colonial occupation, the changes demanded on social hierarchy that it accompanied among the second generation born since the second world war, and the duality of democratic transition amid increasing information blockade and ever-increasing numbers of people seeking urban life over an agrarian economy.
The version of generation X in the developing world is characterised by:
- its incessant need to redefine social norms to newer socio-economic system,
- the sheer pace at which they need to adapt to new social influences along with the need to integrate it to their native cultural context, and
- the constant aspiration for a more egalitarian society in cultures that were long colonised and have an even longer history of hierarchical social structure.
Global factors defining generation X
The aspects and essence that binds the generation X across economic levels and cultures are the defining points of the 1970's: the Bretton Woods system and its subsequent failure, The impact of the contraceptive pill on social-interactional dynamics and the Oil shock of 1973.
Other common global influences defining the generation X across the world include: increasingly flexible and varied gender roles for women contrasted with even more rigid gender roles for men, the unprecedented socio-economic impact of an ever increasing number of women entering the non-agrarian economic workforce, and the sweeping cultural-religious impact of the Iranian revolution towards the end of the 1970's in 1979.
The global experience of a cultural transition like generation X, although in various forms, revealed the inter-dependence of economies since world war II in 1945, and showed the huge impact of American economic policies on the world.
The generation was traditionally begun at 1965, taking off from the birth-rate-based Baby Boom span of 1946-1964, but since many notable people who are normally thought of as clearly Gen-X, such as Courtney Love, Janeane Garofalo and Eddie Vedder, were born in 1964, this year is often cited as the preferred beginning of Generation X. In their book Generations William Strauss and Neil Howe called this generation the "13th Generation" because the tag, like this generation, is a little Halloweenish, and it is the thirteenth to know the flag of the United States (counting back to the peers of Benjamin Franklin) and set its birth years at 1961 to 1981.
This generation is sometimes also known as the Baby Busters, or just Busters, although in Anthony Brancato 's system this generation is divided into two discrete groups, the Baby Busters (Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain) and the Post-Busters (Ani DiFranco and Alanis Morissette), with the former group's first birth year being fixed at 1958, instead of 1961 (this system also observes 1980 and not 1981 as the last birth year for the Post-Busters). "Baby Busters" was, in fact, the only name to be used for this generation before Coupland's book was published.
In continental Europe, the generation is often known as Generation E, or simply known as the Nineties Generation, along the lines of such other European generation names as "Generation of 1968" and "Generation of 1914". In France, the term Génération Bof is in use, with "bof" being a French word for "Whatever", the defining Gen-X saying. In Iran, they are called the Burnt Generation . In some Latin American countries. the name "Crisis Generation " is sometimes used due to the recurring financial crisis in the region during those years.
In the USA, this generation's parents are the Baby Boomers (post-WWII) and the Silent Generation. Generation X's typical grandparents are the G.I. Generation (the World War II generation). Generation X's children will be or have been born in the 1990s and the following few decades, including Generation Y and the following generation. Assuming the average person has their children somewhere in his or her 30's (not including eccentric out-of-wed-lock teenage births), this means Generation X's children will be born between 1994 and 2010. Its typical grandchildren will be born from 2024 to about 2040.
In Western countries, Generation X consists of far fewer people than the baby boom generation and has had correspondingly less impact on popular culture, but it came into its own during the late 1980s and early 1990s. A fashion for grunge music exemplified by the band Nirvana expressed the frustrations of a generation forever doomed to live in the shadow of its elders. As is common in generational shifts, Gen-X thinking has significant overtones of cynicism against things held dear to the previous generation. Others point out that grunge derived its stance and musical values from 1970s punk and heavy metal, and thus was simply part of the wave of 1970s nostalgia that swept college campuses in the early 1990s. In contrast, European music experienced a renaissance in the form of many kinds of electronic dance music such as Acid House, Rave etc pioneered by groups such as The Shamen which were less beholden to 1970s nostalgia. The electronic dance scene in Europe would experience great notoriety thanks to a number of highly publicised Ecstacy related deaths. This dance music took several more years to become properly established in the USA.
Some have suggested that Generation Xers are proud not to be from the baby boom generation and actively rebel against the idealism the baby boomers advocated in the 1960s (though this would not apply to the Iranians). Some would also argue that it is not merely the idealism of the 1960s that Generation Xers reject, but a deeper cynicism of the fact that such "idealism", inevitably doomed in its gratuitous naïveté, so quickly gave way to an era unequivocally focused on commercial and industrial progress; a period which incubated many of the problems facing their, and coming, generations. They fantasize about how the 1960s and 1970s supposedly offered Boomers easy sex without consequence (though this was still available to the gen-Xers who came of age in the 1970s) while resenting the lasting damage done by an era in which they now realize they were the babies adults were trying so much not to have. Hence, the rise in rates of divorce.
Interestingly, however, while Generation Xers are often considered to be non-ideological politically, the generation has given birth to some extremely persuasive and decidedly ideological political thinkers and writers of many different kinds. Nonetheless, even ideological Generation Xers still appear to clash as much with prior generations and their ideologies and institutions, as they do with each other ideologically.
Other people born in the described time period reject the ideological labels as not particularly useful, and point to social class, geography, and other factors having far more influence than chronology.
Generation X has survived a hurried childhood of divorce, latchkeys, space shuttle explosions (primarily in the United States), open classrooms, widespread political corruption, inflation and recession, post-Vietnam national malaise, environmental disaster, the Islamic Revolution (in Iran), devil-child movies, and a shift from "G" to "R" ratings (which had little effect outside the United States). Divorce became common place and affected families of all social and economic backgrounds. Naturally, Gen X'ers were affected by the continual bombardment of images of the nuclear family and feelings of inadequacy and isolation from society resulted. They came of age curtailing the earlier rise in youth crime (particularly in South America, though crime fell in Iran) and fall in SAT test scores -- yet heard themselves denounced as so wild and stupid as to put The Nation At Risk. As young adults, maneuvering through a sexual barricade of AIDS and blighted courtship rituals, they date cautiously. Divorce rates grew, however significant alternatives to traditional marriage (from remaining single to same-sex couples to merely "living together") also arose. Technology-wise the 'creation' and spreading of the internet rendered face-to-face communication secondary, books beside the point, near-infinite knowledge on hand at all times, and tech-related jobs a hot commodity. In jobs, they embrace risk and prefer free agency to loyal corporatism. Politically, they lean toward pragmatism and nonaffiliation and libertarianism or anarchism outside the USA. Sometimes criticized as "slackers", they nevertheless were widely credited with a new growth of entrepreneurship and the resulting dot-com boom. The 1991 end of the Cold War was also very important, particularly for those within the former Soviet bloc.
Major cultural achievements made by members of Generation X :
- Appetite for Destruction (album, Guns N' Roses)
- The Joshua Tree (album, U2)
- "Remote Control" (tv show, MTV)
- As Nasty As They Wanna Be (album, 2 Live Crew)
- Liar's Poker (novel, Michael Lewis)
- pretty hate machine (album, nine inch nails)
- sex, lies, and videotape (film, Steven Soderbergh)
- Straight Outta Compton (album, N.W.A.)
- En Tact (album, The Shamen)
- Boyz N the Hood (film, John Singleton)
- Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (novel, Douglas Coupland)
- Nevermind (album, Nirvana)
- Clerks. (film, Kevin Smith)
- Pulp Fiction (film, Quentin Tarantino)
- Music for the Jilted Generation (album, The Prodigy)
- Parklife (album, Blur)
- Four Weddings and a Funeral, (film, Mike Newell)
- Live Through This, (album, Hole)
- Run Lola Run (film, Tom Tykwer)
- The Big Lebowski (film, Joel and Ethan Coen (The Cohen Brothers)
- You've Come a Long Way, Baby, (album, Fat Boy Slim)
- American Beauty (film, Sam Mendes)
- Being John Malkovich (film, Spike Jonze)
- Fight Club (film, David Fincher)
- The Matrix (film, Larry & Andy Wachowski)
- Why Girls Are Weird (novel, Pamela Ribon )
- Charles Hamblett & Jane Deverson Generation X: today's generation talking about itself Tandem, London, 1964 (Review: )
- Whatever happened to the original Generation X? The Observer January 23, 2005
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