Sociology and Criminology

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

Module code: L4075A
Level 5
15 credits in autumn semester
Teaching method: Lecture, Seminar
Assessment modes: Coursework

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.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of classical and contemporary theories of generations and social change.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of case studies where generations have seemed to play a role in social change.
  • Apply the theoretical concepts/frameworks covered in the module to empirical examples, in order to critically analyse these examples.
  • Assess the competing arguments that continue to focus on class as the major motor of social change.