Generation wars: Is it time to stop the 'Boomer Blaming'?

Saturday 17 October, 10.00 until 11.30, Frobisher 1-3, Barbican Growing Pains

It has become accepted wisdom that the Baby Boomers have ‘had it all’, depriving younger generations of the opportunity to create a life for themselves.  A plethora of books has defined the problem as such: Ed Howker and Shiv Malik’s Jilted Generation: How Britain Bankrupted its Youth, David Willetts’ The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children’s Future and Francis Beckett’s What Did the Baby Boomers Ever Do for Us? But now a new book challenges this consensus. Jennie Bristow’s Baby Boomers and Generational Conflict takes on critically the idea that a single generation ruined the world.

Does the demographic fact of a baby boom explain how the Baby Boomers have been cast as selfish villains who have robbed today’s young of their inheritance? Do ‘generation warriors’ have a point in claiming they have been denied the same opportunities as previous generations, and inherited a world of dwindling resources, environmental catastrophe and debt-driven austerity? If today’s young are encouraged to view their elders through the prism of generational blame, as the cause of contemporary social problems, is there a danger of buck-passing, scapegoating, and even turning children against parents?

On the other hand, young people historically always rebelled against and complained about older generations. Is today’s blame game any different from how the Boomers themselves kicked against the over-30s, or earlier rebels who angrily rejected the mores and values of their forebears? Are generation wars cyclical throughout history, or is there something new about the character of the problems facing young people today?

Jennie Bristow
senior lecturer in sociology, Canterbury Christ Church University; author, The Sociology of Generations: New directions and challenges and Baby Boomers and Generational Conflict; co-author, Parenting Culture Studies

Dr Maria Grasso
lecturer in politics and quantitative methods, Department of Politics, University of Sheffield; author: Generations, Political Participation and Social Change in Western Europe

Andrew Harrop
general secretary, Fabian Society; author, A Presumption of Equality; contributor, The Generation Game

David Perks
founder and principal, East London Science School; director, the Physics Factory

Dr James Panton
head of politics, Magdalen College School, Oxford; associate lecturer in politics and philosophy, Open University; co-founder, Manifesto Club
Recommended readings
Don't Blame It on the Baby Boomers

It is all too tempting to blame the young for not having enough 'go' in them, for their self-pity and endless moaning about the housing ladder and tuition fees. As if they really are the most put upon generation there ever was.

Dave Clements, Huffington Post, 28 September 2015

Stop blaming the baby boomers. Some are trying to save the world

It’s hard to marry the concept of boomer selfishness with the activism of these ‘grey-haired’ protesters fighting on behalf of their grandchildren

Van Badham, Guardian, 13 August 2015

‘Young people aren’t being held back by grasping elders’

spiked talks to Jennie Bristow about her new book and why bashing the Baby Boomers blinds us to the problems of today.

spiked podcast, spiked, 19 June 2015

Young people are skint. But we can’t blame the baby boomers for ever

Our generation can haul ourselves out of our wages crisis and become self-sufficient if we turn our anger into political action

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, Guardian, 30 January 2015

Baby boomers ruined America: Why blaming millennials is misguided — and annoying

It may be fun to bash today's youth -- but here's where the awful job economy and ailing planet actually came from

Alexander S. Balkin, Salon, 20 October 2014

Who Destroyed the Economy? The Case Against the Baby Boomers

Retirees and near-retirees are leaving behind a devastated economy for their children ... but are we doing anything to fix it? Here, two generations debate who's really to blame for the wreckage.

Jim Tankersley, The Atlantic, 5 October 2012

'Trust No One Over 30!': Euro Crisis Morphs into Generational Conflict

People vs. banks, north vs. south, and rich vs. poor? While all of these conflicts may be real, one of the biggest issues of the euro crisis is rarely discussed: Older people are living at the expense of the young, and it's high time the next generation took to the streets to confront their parents.

David Böcking, Speigel Online International, 9 August 2012

Honey, did we bankrupt the kids?

Are we being overly pessimistic in assuming that an economic boom is something we’ll never see again? Is it a cop out to blame one generation for the troubles of the next? Being young today: very heaven or just plain hell? It’s all on the table in this debate filmed at the Battle of Ideas.


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