Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Boomer's Revolt

One of the nice things about following Neil Howe's Lifecourse Blog is that he will often point you to current news stories and give you an interesting interpretation of them through the lens of his generational theory. Case in point is this post, which links to this story. The story is about an increasing trend among state politicians to denounce the authority of the Federal government, and cites several examples of state laws being enacted in order to nullify such potential Federal actions as firearms regulation and health care reform.

Howe's comment seems to imply that he thinks these are all actions of Boomers, rebelling against manifestations of what he calls the Fourth Turning--a climactic crisis in which the very fabric of our society is in danger of being torn beyond repair. In their minds, these Boomers must be using whatever tools are still at their disposal to help save our culture. Obviously, the younger generation now coming into power can't be counted on to do what's right.

I'm not sure the States' Rights movement is entirely a Boomer phenomenon, but the general idea is a curious one. Given what we've talked about regarding Boomer leaders staying in power longer than previous generations and for-profit Boomers moving into vacant leadership positions in the non-profit sector (in part because of the smaller number of qualified GenX non-profit leaders able to step up), I wonder if a similar dynamic will begin to manifest itself in our environment.

Imagine a group of GenX leaders in a particular sector, pushing for some needed reform, and their actions being "nullified" by a still connected group of Boomer leaders, pushing back more against the idea of reform than the reform itself. Or let's have this hit closer to home. Imagine this happening on your Board of Directors, just as the GenXers you've worked hard to recruit start gaining a critical mass.

If Howe's interpretation is correct, and the waning Boomer generation will view the end of their influence on society as identical to the end of society, effective governance in the 21st century is going to be a lot more complicated than anyone might have previously thought.


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