Social and historical generations - how to draw a line?
Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies Tallinn University Tallinn, Estonia
The presentation concentrates on the emergence of new generation(s) after the collapse of Soviet Union. It has been widely accepted in generational research that generational identity forms during the socialization (or, during the transition from youth to adulthood) and usually harsh social changes bring forth the new generational identity. After or during the change, young people face new contexts of socialization and thus develop a different identity. In post-socialist research, there is almost no debate about the fact that a new generation(s) emerged. But that is where the consensus ends. There is no mutual understanding about the character of this generation (it has been labeled "generation of change", "transition youth", "generation of winners", "generation of losers" etc.) since in different countries its transition to adulthood or prospects of life path vary a lot. In addition, even bigger confusion prevails as to where are the borders of this "generation of change" - which cohorts belong to it. In the presentation, two cohorts, which have come of age during post-communist era, are under scope: those born in the beginning of the 1970ies, and those in middle of 1980ies. By following the social contexts of their early socialization it will be shown that their transition to adulthood has taken place in very different social conditions. Thus, it will be asked: is there a reason to consider them as two different generations of change? How much can a generation be socially shared experience and how much a construction of sociologists? In addition to social context, some qualitative data (interviews, essays) will be used in order to have a look how the representatives of these cohorts see their generational identity and generational borders. The data suggests that the older cohort seems to distinguish themselves from the younger. Interestingly enough, they often seem to see their generation in a timespan of only ten years.