Repo Man Generation

By: Joshua Glenn
June 20, 2009

In a recent post, I casually asserted that the so-called Baby Boomers [I call them the Blank Generation] were born from 1944-53. I’m aware, of course, that America’s postwar “baby boom” began in 1946 and ended in 1957; and I realize that the influential pop demographers William Strauss and Neil Howe lumped everyone born from 1943-60 into the Boom Generation. But I stand by my half-serious, purposely eccentric (too strict, too regular) generational periodization; despite its kookiness, I think it’s more accurate, more revealing, than any other that’s been proposed yet.

<em>Repo Man</em>, directed by Alex Cox (born 1954) and starring Emilio Estevez (1962), is a key work of the Original Generation X.
Repo Man, directed by Alex Cox (born 1954) and starring Emilio Estevez (1962), is a key work of the Original Generation X.

Click here for a series of posts on my generational periodization scheme.



What do you think?

  1. It looks like you prefer a 9 year breakdown of generations to the 15-20 year periods of Strauss and Howe. I have a read a few of your other posts, but do you have anything that sums up why you believe that generations are so short in duration?


    Dave Sohigian

  2. My generations are actually 10 years in duration – from 1914 through (not to, or until) 1923, for example.

    I first started writing about generational stuff in the early ’90s, actually, in the first few issues of my zine Hermenaut. At the time, I was only concerned to argue that there was no such thing as Generation X — that pop sociologists and lifestyle journalists and marketing/management consultants were lumping together the younger members of a post-Boom generation (at the time, I called them the Repo Man Generation — Candi Strecker’s moniker; now I call them the OGXers) with the older members of an unnamed generation (I called them/us S.L.A.C.K.ers, then; now I call them PCers). PS: I was approached by a book publisher who wanted me to write a Slacker’s Handbook as a sequel to the Preppie Handbook – ugh! (Even though I was straight out of college and eager to be an author, I was smart enough to say no thanks.) Then I stopped writing or thinking much about generations for the next 15 years.

    In early 2007, Obama’s candidacy got serious journalists talking about generations — was he a Boomer, or not? I dusted off my theory and started blogging intermittently about generations for the Boston Globe’s Ideas section. I didn’t write much about why generations are actually shorter than Howe & Strauss would have us believe except in a December ’07 Brainiac post where I said: “A generation ought to be thought of as an algorithm, which is composed not only of input integers (birthdate) but input symbols (social, cultural, and economic formative experiences).”

    It makes sense that the shorter the timespan you’re looking at, the more likely it is that those born during it shared the same social, cultural, and economic formative experiences. Meaning: they graduated from college during a recession, or during a bubble; or their first memory of national politics was Watergate, or the Reagan Revolution, or Obama’s election.

    Is my generational scheme foolproof? Of course not. It’s quite kooky in its strictness. Plus, maybe generations should be conceived as 5-year spans, or something. And yet… my periodization works better than any other that I’ve seen.

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