Home > Politics (general) > The Generation Game is over (at least for me)

The Generation Game is over (at least for me)

March 7th, 2018

For more than a generation, I have been criticising the Generation Game, that is, the insistence on dividing society into groups based on birth year and imputing different characteristics to each group. Today, I’m following the classic advice for those involved in an endless war: declare victory and get out. The basis for my claim is that I’ve managed to publish my latest critique in the New York Times, under the headline ‘Millennial’ Means Nothing (paywalled*). I expect this will reach more people than anything I could do with the blog, so I will leave this topic and move on.

* It’s fairly easy to get around, I believe.

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  1. bjb
    March 7th, 2018 at 17:33 | #1

    Not paywalled for me.

    “When it comes to wealth and its accompanying privileges, the wealth of the previous generation of one’s own family matter more than whether your birth year falls on one or other side of some arbitrary boundary.”

    and nicely illustrated from the SMH today:


  2. rog
    March 7th, 2018 at 18:03 | #2

    I think that the G game is an invention of baby boomers, and the sooner they get out of the way the better 🙂

  3. Know Teeth
    March 7th, 2018 at 18:04 | #3

    I once read, bjb, on the internet, of a function easily accessible in your browser called ‘no scripts’.
    And I always clear my cache and turn off cookies. Except for great blogs like this one.

  4. Newtownian
    March 7th, 2018 at 18:07 | #4

    Had no problem with the paywall.

    Regarding the divide you are complaining about, strictly speaking your statement is of course true as we all exist somewhere unique on the the absurdly mutidimensional continum we call the Universe. Some of these dimensions can be reduced more or less to two states (e.g. male / female, dead/alive) but most vary across huge ranges.

    And rejoicing in this diversity and complexity is quite normal and acceptable for academics who get published depending on its analysis.

    Unfortunately we also need day to day to categorize the world with decision making in mind. We’ve always done this based if only on ‘gut feeling’ – wildebeast? > eat: lion ? > run away very fast. Then someone invented numbers and the full power of systematic categorization of people, potential food, species etc. was revealed. Among other things categorization helped communication too and individual claims to higher status via possession of specific category knowledge. Thus science use categories to describe the Universe and the diverse forms of life and how they interact but reducing clusters of attributes to single categories. In economics you eventually got von Neumann–Morgenstern utility theory https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Von_Neumann%E2%80%93Morgenstern_utility_theorem which offers a ‘rational’ and even better Mathematical way of reducing life’s diversity and complexity to preferences and decisions about how we might exploit it for personal and social gain. Control over decision based on categorical assignments or surrogates or also reflects the ultimate drug, power.

    What this all says is that we are inherently classification oriented and very inventive when it comes to categorization and will continue to do so if only for categorizing Us versus Them even if the validity is dubious. So this classification into buckets like Millennials and Hipsters seems unlikely to stop soon. For all its flaws the habit is too damn useful especially when speculating on Avocado futures.

  5. March 7th, 2018 at 19:05 | #5

    goood post man

  6. March 7th, 2018 at 22:17 | #6

    I agree with the article in general, but there have to be some differences between generations, even if incremental. Otherwise it’s the End of History (again)! I think you do accept that but then seem to gloss over it. There are differences between my kids’ lives and mine eg they went back to paid employment sooner after having children. I suppose it’s when people ascribe difference to some innate characteristic (‘these generation X and Z women are so career-oriented!) instead of recognising that society changes, that you get the labelling problem.

    Good article though, people often go nuts with this generation stuff. I hate to be lumped with Donald Trump as a Boomer too. Oh the horror.

  7. MarkB
    March 7th, 2018 at 23:51 | #7

    bjb :
    Not paywalled for me.

    The New York Times website allows something like 10 views per month without a subscription. Views are tracked using “cookies” on the viewer’s computer, so this limit can be circumvented by clearing cookies if one is so inclined.

    Statistics of cohorts is often useful, but the cohort’s members are still individuals.

  8. Trexis Lucius
    March 8th, 2018 at 03:29 | #8

    John, your article ‘Millenial’ Means Nothing in the NYT, hit the nail on the heads of the false teachers and snake oil peddlers of today. Very touching and illuminating. It’s time to end all the false dichotomies that have been purveyed just to divide and manipulate the masses for just too long; generation differences, race, class and gender should all be looked at closely and anything that lacks any substance in science (such as race and generational difference in particular) should
    be exposed and shredded in the dustbins of history. When the same lie is told a thousand times, people begin to accept it as truth.
    I remember when this generational philosophy was pushed hard in place I used to work about a decade ago as the new model of management and driving performance ie. managing a person based on their ‘generational characteristics’ as opposed to the specific core performance characteristics; I felt within every fiber of my being that it was a bunch of crap. Are you going to be writing. Are you going to be writing book about this, giving a TED talk, do some intellectual debates soon to expose these false paradigms further? Thanks for being a good teacher. I am inspired.

  9. BilB
    March 8th, 2018 at 07:38 | #9

    Meanwhile, Babyboomers (the command generation) have all of the property and make most of the decisions, however incompetent (our free education having given us little of the gift of wisdom), and fumble embarrassingly with our phones,…..while Millenials head into the world with sky high debt, little chance of bridging the property divide, have freely available googled and wikie’d knowledge of the ages which they can access anywhere any time with lightning fast thumbs, and know that we have won leaving left them with an overpopulated mess, and a collapsing environment overshadowed by enough nuclear weapons to annihilate everything a hundred times over in the hands of……Babyboomers.

    Yes, we won!! Go us.

  10. Darryl Rosin
  11. Smith
    March 8th, 2018 at 10:50 | #11

    Millenials are different. Their retinas are superglued to their phones, 24/7.

  12. Ernestine Gross
    March 8th, 2018 at 13:34 | #12

    It seems to me category names for bunched cohorts such as baby boomers, generation X, …, Z, millennials make sense to some sociologists or marketing people and they make as much sense to an economist as the categories ‘consumers’ and ‘producers’ make sense to sociologists and marketing people – none whatsoever.

    What happened to the hippie generation? Has it been edited out of the boomer generation(s) because not much money could be made from them by the ‘producers’?

  13. may
    March 8th, 2018 at 16:56 | #13

    rog :
    I think that the G game is an invention of baby boomers, and the sooner they get out of the way the better

    they were yuppies (good)

    hippies (bad)

    then some bastard went and invented the boombox and now look where we are!

  14. may
    March 8th, 2018 at 18:04 | #14

    i can’t resist this.

    you are right JQ, to give ggs the flick,

    as a sandgroper to a bananabender, see


    hells bells, you are one up on the “Failed Darwin Award Winner 2018” board—- it’s early days yet.

    just remember, the operative word is Failed.

    much more interesting than generational guff.

  15. may
    March 8th, 2018 at 18:10 | #15

    can somebody please tell the poor bloke about borax?

  16. sunshine
    March 8th, 2018 at 18:35 | #16

    @Trexis Lucius

    here ,here ! “anything that lacks any substance in science (such as race and generational difference” —–>>> claims of fundamental animal and human difference too ?

  17. 2 tanners
    March 9th, 2018 at 11:19 | #17

    I’ve always thought there was value to be found in this generational cohorting. Almost as much as the 12 year Chinese cycle of year of birth, or 12 month cycle of the western astrological calendar. The value is, of course, in the production of entertaining fiction disguised as life advice.

    My forthcoming book, combining 5 generations (which will conveniently each be 12 years long), and your year of birth and star sign, will provide you with a sure guide to success in life. The sequel will advise employers on how to handle you such that you produce the most for the least money and still don’t quit.

  18. ErtOzt
    March 13th, 2018 at 06:46 | #18

    It”s just context. Any old Facebook group could say anything this isn”t any old FB group

  19. may
    March 17th, 2018 at 12:43 | #19

    i’m back.

    sandgropers are in with a chance!


    he did try to swim after it so i reckon that puts it in the FDAW 2018 running.

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