Generation X


Definition

Is the generation following the post–World War II baby boom, especially people born in the United States and Canada from the early 1960s to the late 1970s.

After Generation X, a novel by Douglas Coupland (born 1961), Canadian writer.

Refers to individuals roughly between the age of 25 and 34. "Generation Y" pertains to ages 18 to 24, and "baby boomers" are people 35 to 54. By the time older gen-Xers became teenagers, the personal computer revolution had begun. Younger gen-Xers and all generation Ys were brought up in the thick of it. In contrast, older baby boomers were certainly raised without desktop computers, but many did not even have TVs as children.

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.

As a phrase, without the current meaning, the term was coined as the title of a 1964 novel, and was picked up as the name of a punk rock band, featuring the young Billy Idol. It was later popularised by Douglas Coupland in his book Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, who took the X from Paul Fussell's 1983 book Class, where the term class X designated a region of America's social heirarchy, rather than a generation. 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, over-educated, underachieving slackers with body piercing, who drank Starbucks coffee and had to work at McJobs.

Beginnings

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 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.

This generation's parents are the Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation. Generation X's typical grandparents are the G.I. 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 generations have a 22-year average length, this means Generation X's children will be born from 1982 to 2025. Its typical grandchildren will be born from 2026 to about 2048.

Generation X consists of far fewer people (19 million, U.S.) than the baby boom generation (72 million, U.S.) 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.

Outlook

Some have suggested that Generation Xers are proud to not be from the baby boom generation and actively rebel against the idealism the baby boomers advocated in the 1960s. 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.

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 conservative, libertarian and liberal political thinkers and writers. 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. 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 24/7 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. 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, of course, was probably the most defining event of Generation Xers young adulthood.



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