Social change : the circulation of cohorts

Date

1985

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Abstract

Cohort is a demographic variable which identifies people by common location in social time and historical time. Social time underlies the age grade system of a society. A particular social time indicates the socio-cultural definition of age during a particular historical period. Historical time refers to long term processes which create the socio-cultural context and changing definitions of the phases of the life cycle. Members of a specific cohort share the same life cycle stage and socialization experience. Cohorts' differing experiences lead to intercohort variability. Social change is a function of variations in socialization and social institutions over time. Intergenerational differences due to differential contact with social institutions creates discontinuity which allows for social change. Cohort has previously been used as an explanatory variable in the study of social change. The focus in previous research has been on intergenerational differences. To follow this line of research, the relationships between social change and both a single cohort and multiple cohorts over time are considered. A single cohort model expresses how a unique cohort will impact and change society. In this thesis social change as a function of multiple coexisting cohorts is approached through a process-oriented model, the "circulation of cohorts." The dynamics of both social change and developing cohorts suggests the utility of a dialectical perspective. Broadly speaking, this perspective focuses on the relatedness of contradictory entities. Further, the dialectical perspective is considered as a theoretical tool in the development of a general model of change encompassing multiple levels of analysis, i.e. organizational, group and individual.

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Keywords

Social change, Cohort analysis

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