In her most recent book, Stop Mugging Grandma: The ‘Generation Wars’ and Why Boomer Blaming Won’t Solve Anything (Yale University Press 2019), CPCS associate Jennie Bristow shows how the so-called ‘Millennials’ have been incited to regard their parents’ generation as entitled and selfish, and to blame the Baby Boomers of the Sixties for the cultural and economic problems of today. But, she asks, is it true that young people have been victimised by their elders?
Bristow looks at generational labels and the groups of people they apply to. She argues that the prominence and popularity of terms like ‘Baby Boomer’, ‘Millennial’ and ‘snowflake’ in mainstream media operates as a smoke screen – directing attention away from important issues such as housing, education, pensions, and employment. Bristow systematically disputes the myths that surround the ‘generational war’, exposing it to be a tool by which the political and social elite can avoid public scrutiny.
“A wide-ranging and thoughtful look at contemporary society … Eminently readable without sacrificing sophistication, many of Bristow’s views will be controversial and likely to spark further debate.” Doug Owram, author of Born at the Right Time: A History of the Baby Boom Generation.
“Pitching young people against the old is unhelpful to us all, yet policymakers and journalists are increasingly looking to the blame game. Bristow expertly argues that the inter-generational contract is at risk — young and old must come together to tackle the issues of this generation and the next.” David Sinclair, Director of the International Longevity Centre UK.
“A searing and spot on critique of the political hijacking of the generation debate.” Steven Roberts, Associate Professor of Sociology at Monash University.
In The Sociology of Generations: New directions and challenges (Palgrave Macmillan 2016) Bristow suggests that the enduring problem of generations remains that of knowledge: how society conceptualises the relationship between past, present and future, and the ways in which this is transmitted by adults to the young. Reflecting on Mannheim’s seminal essay ‘The Problem of Generations’, Bristow explores why generations have become a focus for academic interest and policy developments today. She argues that developments in education, teaching and parenting culture seek to resolve tensions of our present-day risk society through imposing an artificial distance between the generations.
“An engagingly written and impressively resourced book which brings together historical, literary and ethnographic material on formal education and policies on gender, parenting and the ‘safeguarding’ of children – topics rarely considered together. The author holds her novel and ambitious thesis together by locating it within Karl Mannheim’s renowned but neglected theory of generations. She brings out clearly how it was, for him, an example of the potential of the sociology of knowledge.” Michael Young, UCL Institute of Education, UK
“Popular usage of the term “generation” tends to be characterised by opacity and imprecision, and the sociology of generations is hardly less murky and contested. The same can be said of public discussion and academic consideration of problems and issues around education, teaching, child protection and safeguarding, parenting and the family, living with uncertainty and risk, gender relationships and reproduction, and bureaucratic and governmental incursions into the personal and private sphere. This short book bravely takes on these issues and more, through a discussion of the idea and reality of generations situated firmly in the sociology of knowledge … Building on refreshingly eclectic sources and ideas, Jennie Bristow offers an engaging discussion of some fundamental issues.” Heather Piper, Honorary Fellow, University of Edinburgh, UK
In Baby Boomers and Generational Conflict (Palgrave Macmillan 2015), Jennie Bristow presents her doctoral research on the construction of the Baby Boomers as a social problem, in the context of the history and sociology of generations. The dominant cultural script for Baby Boomers is that they have ‘had it all’ – the benefits of a booming economy, the welfare state, and personal freedoms – thereby depriving younger generations of the opportunity to create a life for themselves. Bristow provides a critical account of this discourse by locating the problematisation of the Baby Boomers within a wider ambivalence about the legacy of the Sixties.
“Like the fabled blind men trying to grasp the nature of an elephant, commentators on both sides of the Atlantic have struggled to understand the significance of the baby boomers, at different times offering very different, sometimes contradictory interpretations. By telling this fascinating story, Jennie Bristow offers a model for a symbolic demography that critically explores how and why we assign meanings to generations.” Joel Best, University of Delaware, USA
“Scan the cultural and political landscape today and it’s hard not to conclude that Western society is experiencing a pronounced blurring of generational standards. The current furore over the ‘Baby Boomer generation’ only adds to this perception. Jennie Bristow’s new book brings much needed clarity to all this generational confusion, and does so with no small amount of insight and flair. Required reading for social scientists looking for a considered introduction to ‘generationalism’, or anyone heading for retirement who wants to avoid a future of nonsensical stigmatisation.” Professor Keith Hayward, University of Kent, UK.
Licensed to Hug, by Frank Furedi and Jennie Bristow. Second edition, Civitas 2010.
‘Who cares for children? The problem of intergenerational contact.’ In Ellie Lee, Jennie Bristow, Charlotte Faircloth and Jane Macvarish, Parenting Culture Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.
Researching Sex and Lies in the Classroom: Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in Schools, by Pat Sikes and Heather Piper. Routledge, 2009.
Don’t Touch! The Educational Story of a Panic, by Heather Piper and Ian Stronach. Routledge, 2008.
Reporting the Riots: Parenting Culture and the Problem of Authority in Media Analysis of August 2011, by Jennie Bristow. Sociological Research Online 2013, 18 (4) 11
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