The Youth Revolution: The Conflict of Generations in Modern History

The Youth Revolution: The Conflict of Generations in Modern History

The Youth Revolution: The Conflict of Generations in Modern History

The Youth Revolution: The Conflict of Generations in Modern History

Excerpt

There is probably nothing wholly new under the sun. But history does have its new emphases. A minor matter in one age may emerge as a major force in the next cycle of history. A human potential, dormant through the centuries, may find a favorable environment for development at last, with explosive results for history.

When such "new" trends do surface, new theories usually evolve to explain them. The Industrial Revolution, for instance, put unparalleled economic development squarely in the center of the history of the past two centuries. Not surprisingly, this same astounding economic upsurge gave the economic approach an unprecedentedly high place in the thinking of historians and social scientists.

So it happened also with what is popularly known as the youth revolution of the last century and a half, and with the resulting generational approach to history.

There has always been some conflict between the generations. Aristotle detected a generation gap in ancient Greece. Town-versusgown battles and apprentice riots were commonplace in the middle ages. Only during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, however, has a clearly discernible youth revolution become sufficiently important in history to attract the attention of social commentators in general and of historians in particular. And only during the past fifty years has a serious body of generational theory arisen to explain this startling phenomenon.

The widening gap between the generations first became apparent during the restoration period following Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815. The secret societies which plotted -- and sometimes openly revolted -- against the restoration of the ancien régime were overwhelmingly young, both in membership and in spirit. Groups . . .

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