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Generations of Taiwanese

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Mannheim (1952:283) noted that "Different generations live at the same time. But since experienced time is the only real time, they must all in fact be living in qualitatively quite different subjective eras." This paper tests the following hypothesis derived from Mannheim: the extent to which a generation unit "creates new collective impulses original to itself" and distinct from an earlier or later generation is a positive function of the rate of social change. Since the rate of social change has been rapid in Taiwan for several decades, it is hypothesized that, controlling for age, there will be significant differences between three generations of Taiwanese in their family and kinship patterns, stratification, class and mobility, and attitudes toward life chances and political participation. My data come from two independently drawn sample surveys of the Taiwanese (Min-nan and Hakka) population of Taipei. The first survey was conducted in 1963, the second in 1991. Respondents in each survey were between 20 and 69 years old. The identical questions about kinship, stratification, etc., were asked in each survey. The duration of a generation is conventionally defined as between 20 and 30 years. Combining the 507 respondents in the 1963 sample with the 545 in the 1991 sample, I then divided them into three successive generations, each of 24-25 years' duration. Generation 1 consists of those born between 1894 and 1917 (N = 253), generation 2, those born between 1918 and 1941 (N = 399), and generation 3, those born between 1942 and 1967 (N = 397). The empirical findings largely support the hypothesis stated above: controlling for age, the three generations differ significantly in the directions hypothesized by neo-modernization theory in most, but not all respects.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, U.S.A.


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