Stop Mugging Grandma: the generation wars

Saturday 2 November, 14:0015:30, Level G StudioBattle Book Club

Whether it’s Trump, Brexit, feminism or economic policy, the so-called ‘generational divide’ between old and young seems to inform most political debates today.

It is claimed that older generations voted for their interests and prejudices over the needs of the young, to whom the future belongs. The Baby Boomers are particularly demonised as a generation of selfish ‘sociopaths’ who have long monopolised welfare resources. This older generation is blamed for wanting pensions, buying houses and for exercising their undeserved clout in the political domain. In contrast, the younger generations are heralded as either the saviours of politics or the victims of greedy parents. Post-Brexit, some have even suggested that the youth vote should be given more weight, as they will be living with the consequences of political decisions for longer than their elders.

But is it really true that the political upheavals of recent years can be explained by the voting behaviour of a particular generation? And if so, what are the implications of valuing the needs attributed to future generations over the will of those who currently exist? Can young voters gain from arguments that seek to delegitimise older voters, when they will one day be old themselves?

In her new book, Stop Mugging Grandma: the ‘generation wars’ and why Boomer-blaming won’t solve anything, sociologist Jennie Bristow interrogates the rise of intergenerational conflict. Bristow argues that, throughout the Western world, assumptions about differences of interests and needs between generations have become a new ideology, distorting the framework for wider social and economic debates.

How do ideas about generation compete with other identity-based claims? Or do we need to combat the often-ugly politics of the generation wars – and make the case for intergenerational relationships that reflect common interests and concerns?

In this session, Bristow will set out her argument in a short opening lecture, before joining a panel to discuss the issues her book raises.