The concept of generations is one that has been debated by historians and sociologists for some time.

Karl Mannheim’s influential work conceptualized generation as ‘a social creation rather than a biological necessity’ (1952: 309; see Kertzer 1983): a birth cohort only forms a ‘generation’ if it is shaped by novel or dramatic historical circumstances and becomes identified in generational terms. But the precise way in which this occurs requires further research. For example, just how some ‘generational cohorts’ such as ‘Baby Boomers’ come to develop a shared consciousness and take an active historical role shaped by their specific location in time and space is not yet clear.

There is general agreement that generational differences in cultural ‘taste’ (Bourdieu 1984) and resources affect social change, and are significant in conflict and cohesion as well as in mobility and value transmission, but these differences and their consequences have rarely been analysed in any detail.