This thesis explores the sociological underpinnings of generation by drawing on Mannheim's theory of generations and applying the concept as an explanative force in long-term societal change. Individuals of the same cohort and national culture make for a generation location; they share a similar parameter of experience within the stream of history. As individuals collectively enter into the formative years of adolescence, significant Imprint Events can forge a bond between them in terms of mindset and worldview (Habitus), which endure over the life course. This group of individuals, as a result, develop a generational consciousness that is distinct from other groups who had different generation locations and formative imprints. When that group interacts with elements of their social order through the lens of their distinct generational consciousness, they truly become a social generation. Social generations are not monolithic, however, and separate generation units can emerge when individuals respond to the same formative circumstances in different ways. Some generation units are so prominent or vocal that their response, despite being one of many, is perceived as the perspective of the generation; these units tend to define the legacy of that generation. Through actualizing their generational consciousness in ways both intentional and unintentional, grand and minuscule, a generation acts upon the social process, creating social change or maintaining the status quo. Younger generations, because they are less socialized and routinized by the present configuration of society, are more likely to drive social change. Because new generations emerge with their own consciousness and create change in the image of that consciousness, the ceaseless process of generation succession can be viewed as a driving force of history.


This thesis is a truncated version of the author's research. The extended paper, titled Generational Harmony Saves the World: How the Power of Generation Theory, Gen Z Youth, and Activism Can Mitigate the Climate Crisis, is also available in STARS.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Jewett, Aubrey


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Sciences


Politics, Security and International Affairs



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date