Remembering My Hat

24th April 2014

BSA 2014, Leeds (Part 4): Baby boomers + ‘quick and dirty’ research

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 19:34
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Jennie Bristow, Kent

The Baby Boomer generation and the problem of knowledge

How has the baby boomer generation come to be constructed as a social problem in Britain today?

3 books came out in 2010 doing this, most influential David Willets’ The Pinch’, right wing perspective. Francis Beccket ‘What did the babyboomers ever do for us. ‘Jilted Generation’

Babyboomers hed responsible for a wide range of social problems – economic crisis (demographic size + bad political decision = Tony Blair), housing shortage, pensions and healthcare, lifestyles, values and cultural change, and young people’s inablity to grow up (including because they can’t afford to buy houses).

Boomer-blaming transcends left-right divisions and also generational differences (baby boomers themselves and younger people [what about those older than the baby boomers?]

Did media analysis of 4 national newspapers in 6 date periods, mid 80s – present day, using term ‘baby’ and ‘boomer’. Analysed 200+ articles in depth.

Increased mention over time (also on Google Ngram)

Not always negative discussion – often quite positive, especially around time of election of Bill Clinton.

How boomers were defined varied depending on the problem that was being articulated. – one bulge or two. If talking about demographic problems, tend to define widely as born 1945-65. But if talking about cultural change, really mean people graduating from university in about 1969.

Used Qualitative Media Analysis – aiming to take acount of social contexts in which texts are created (e.g. election of Bill Clinton)

Mannheim 1922/28 on sociology of generations

Cultural problem – failure to preserve welfare state (left wing) or self-indulgent individualism like Tony Blair (right wing)

By 2006 beginning of hardening of narraive of baby boomers as a problem (n.b. before the financial crisis). Prompted by retirement of the first baby boomers. ‘Boomergeddon’. Demographic problems, but culturally morally loaded through talk of 60s barminess.

Can’t win – if look after your health, you’ll live longer, which makes you even more of a problem!

A new generationalism? Trying to create generationally based social divisions?

Historically, younger generations have criticised older generations for being set in their ways. But here we see baby boomers saying that they went too far, shouldn’t have changed things so much. [Very interesting!]

Idea of babyboomers originally came from US, which is why it doesn’t actually map very well on to UK demographics.

This is an elite idea that has become popular through the media, not a grassroots one. Thinks most people’s actual experience is not of intergenerational conflict but of mutual support with significant transfers of wealth down the generations.


Hannah Jones, Warwick

Urgent! Reflections on doing ‘quick-and-dirty’ research, and on sociology and social action.

Danger of it just being descriptive, but that’s also a danger with slow research. Difficulty of taking historical and wider perspective – only if you don’t already know the literature.

Back and Puwar (2012) A manifesto for live methods.

Can use quick sociological methods to have political effects – quick survey they did in response to ‘Go Home’ immigration vans. But harder to have sociological effects with quick research? She thinks not.

Amphibious sociology – Lury 2013





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