A Sociology of Generations and Social Change? From Passive to Active Generations (L4075A)

15 credits, Level 5

Autumn teaching

From anti-gun high-school students in the US to Greta Thunberg’s climate campaigning, the ‘post-millennial’ generation is seemingly taking the lead in promoting social and political change. So, why have sociologists paid so little attention to the role of generations in social change?

You’ll investigate the reasons for sociology’s frequent neglect of generations using theorists such as Karl Mannheim and Pierre Bourdieu. We explore topics such as:

  • the role of generational movements in social change
  • conflicting views on what shapes and unifies generations
  • evidence for active/passive alternation linked to processes of generational ‘closure’
  • whether the environmentalist orientation of today’s younger generation comes from the politics of privilege
  • whether millennials’ mobilisation around global poverty has given way to a post-millennial concern about ecology that is more passively oriented.

A range of case studies underpins your theoretical study, including:

  • generations’ role in nation-building
  • the role of ‘marginal’ generations, such as women and ethnic minorities, in changing exclusionary social arrangements
  • whether it’s possible to conceive of a global generation effecting global social change.


50%: Lecture
50%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 150 hours of work. This breaks down into about 30 hours of contact time and about 120 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2023/24. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to COVID-19, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: