Philip Cohen claims that generational titles are meaningless, stereotypical and undermine our understanding of social change.
The practice of naming generations based on birth year goes back to the supposed ‘Lost Generation’ of the late 19th Century. But sociology professor and author Philip N. Cohen argues the tradition has devolved into a never-ending competition to be the first to propose the next name that sticks, bringing little to social science and public understanding regarding 'generational change'. Cohen believes:
- The supposed boundaries between generations are no more meaningful than the names they’ve been given.
- There is no research identifying the appropriate boundaries between generations.
- There is no empirical basis for imposing the sweeping character traits that are believed to define them.
- Generation descriptors are either embarrassing stereotypes or caricatures with astrology-level vagueness.
- Generation labels are widely adopted by the public but have no basis in social reality.
- Critics say generational titles such as ‘baby boomer’ and ‘Gen X’ are baseless categories that drive people towards stereotyping.
- Mar 2020 The Conversation Baby boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z labels: Necessary or nonsense?
- Aug 2020 OUP Generations science is bunkv
- Sep 2020 AFR Marketers should kill Boomers, Millennials and Gen Z
- June 2021 The Guardian Why do we cling to vacuous generational labels such as ‘millennial’?
Note some older articles on this subject:
- Apr 2015 Washington Post Your generational identity is a lie
- May 2015 AEON: Generational thinking is seductive and confirms preconceived prejudices
- Aug 2015 The Economist: Myths about millennials
- Sep 2015 Forbes Why Generational Theory Makes No Sense
- Mar 2016 Forbes Millennial Stereotyping In The Workplace Isn't Funny
- May 2017 S CIO Australia 5 steps to ending generational stereotypes
- July 2017 BBC Why the millennial stereotype is wrong
- July 2017 Nature The digital native is a myth
- Apr 2018 Slate Can We Please Stop Talking About Generations as if They Are a Thing?