Research article
Issue: № 10 (52), 2016

Васенина И.В.1, Хвыля-Олинтер Н.А.2

1Кандидат социологических наук, Доцент, 2Кандидат социологических наук, Старший научный сотрудник, Московский Государственный Университет имени М.В. Ломоносова



В статье рассмотрены факторы, влияющие на процесс преемственности поколений. Но активная деятельность поколений, основанная на воспринятом опыте, происходит в определенный временной период. Неотделимость поколения от хода истории обращает внимание на феномен времени как на одно из условий существования и жизнедеятельности любых возрастных когорт. Для выяснения того, как время влияет на ключевые характеристики поколений и почему так важно анализировать возрастные когорты в контексте темпоральности, в статье рассматривается сущность категории «время» и выделяются основные временные ритмы, оказывающие влияние на социальную память поколений

Ключевые слова: коллективная память, социальные отношения/опыт, стереотипы, ценности, мировоззрение.

Vasenina I.V.1, Khvylya-Olinter N.A.2

 1Аssociate Professor, Lomonosov Moscow State University, faculty of Sociology, 2Senior research scientist, Lomonosov Moscow State University, faculty of Sociology



The article considers the factors affecting the process of the intergenerational continuity. However, the generations’ vigorous activity, based on the experience perceived, takes place in a particular time period. The generation inseparability from the course of history draws the attention to the phenomenon of time as one of the conditions for the existence and life-sustaining activity of all age cohorts. To find out how the time affects the key characteristics of the generations and why it is so important to analyze the age cohorts in the context of the temporality, the article considers the essence of the 'time' category and highlights the main time rhythms affecting the social memory of the generations.

Keywords: collective memory, social attitudes/experience, stereotypes, values, worldview.

The historical memory of the generations is one of the most important and global phenomena in the society's life, because it allows not only preserving the past, but also preserving the integrity of the society, determining the vector of its further development, supporting the social identity. The memory is not just providing the message to the events of the past years; it closely intertwines the meanings enclosed in the present and future. These meanings are, of course, formed under the influence of the experienced; however, in their turn, they determine the models for the interpretation of the key events, which will be laid in the memory of the future generations. The events taking place in the society in the particular time period are remembered by several generations and influence the content and nature of the historical memory. Therefore, it is necessary to analyze the historical memory in the context of the temporality, focusing on the peculiarities of the social time, which determines the life of the society in the particular historical moment.

In this case, the generation acts as the subject-bearer of the memory. So, it is necessary to pay attention to this category, revealing its essence and content.

The analysis of the scientific literature forms the idea of the content of the 'generation' category as a complex phenomenon, which is actively studied. This complexity is manifested in the difference between the criteria for its description (definition).

First, they depend on the tasks pursued by the scientists while conducting the theoretical or empirical researches. For example, if the task of the research is to study the culture's dynamics, the main criterion for selecting the generations is the belonging of the people to the particular cultural circle (the bearers of this culture are selected). When analyzing the age differentiation of the society, the researcher shall choose a total of persons born in the selected time period as a basis for the generation. While studying any historical event, it is logically to present the generation as a group of people having consciously survived it, etc. All of these approaches are legitimate and widely used in the social sciences.

Second, the understanding of the ‘generation’ is determined by the field of the scientific knowledge, which is the framework for conducting the research. This term is used in various fields, but most often - in philosophy, sociology, psychology, demography and cultural studies. In the sociological sense, the generation is a generation of people similar in age, with the social attitudes, worldviews, values, etc. formed under the influence of the historical segment of the society's development. While solving the sociological tasks such as predicting the social behavior, the age criterion is often considered as the secondary one.

Third, the criteria for selecting the generation are determined by the social situation, which naturally affects the content of the scientific concepts. For example, after the Revolution of 1917 there was a radical change in the worldview. Thus, the works of the Russian scientists contained such ideologically determined categories as ‘Marxists generation’, ‘revolutionary generation’, etc. After the World War II, the term ‘generation of tempest times’ originated, which meant the cohort of the writers, whose creative formation and maturation took place in the postwar period. Many of these symbolic names appeared particularly due to the weighty historical events predetermining the peculiarities of the perception of the reality and understanding of the social and cultural phenomena by the scientists.

In terms of etymology, the word ‘поколение’ (‘generation’) has a certain meaning: ‘по’ (‘descending’) and ‘поколение’ (‘joint bend’, ‘spiral turn’) that is, previous and next, but related, united. The etymology dictionary lays emphasis that ‘поколение’ (‘generation’) is derived from ‘колено’ (‘knee’), and in the Common Slavic meaning - also from ‘род’, ‘племя’ (‘kin’, ‘tribe’.) This term in such meaning refers to a specific model of relationship between generations, to the necessary link between them. It is important to note that West European scientists use the term ‘generation’ (from Latin generatio – birth, reproduction) to refer to a generation. That is, the notion of procreation, bringing forth of new representatives of a kin lies at the heart of this term that is very different from the Slavic meaning of this word, and, consequently, conditions the other model of relationship between generations. Friedrich Engels pointed out the reproduction of a kin as the main meaning of the notion ‘generation’ in his work “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State” bringing the origins of this term to the Common Aryan word stem ‘gan’, which means “to procreate”.

The philosophical understanding of this category is based on the combination of the biological and reflexive principles, i.e. the fact of life itself (as an independent link in the generic chain) and common specificity of the self-awareness, understanding of own place in the society and way of activities.

The demography formally considers the generation as the age group, i.e. as those people born in the same period of time (often in the group of the same year). Thus, according to the demographists the population may be composed of the representatives of 80 or more generations. Their number is theoretically limited only by the possible human longevity. The demographic researches use the methods of the actual and relative generation, which allow getting the generalized fertility, marriage and mortality indicators.

The culture and art experts often conduct the analysis of the generations in terms of the rhythms of the values changes and literary and artistic styles, succession processes in culture and arts.

The psychologists use the analysis of the generational specificity, pointing to the personality characteristics of a typical representative of the generation.

It is obvious that the criteria for establishing the generational boundaries are ambiguous and not formalized, which makes it possible to apply various research approaches to the analysis of this phenomenon.

A human being as a representative of the generation is a member of the global historical process. Here is an interesting comparison: "If the history of the world is an ocean, and the individual is a drop in the ocean, the generation can be compared with the wave. One after another, the waves are lapping on the beach. Their crest grows rises and then falls down abruptly. One wave replaces another ... " [1]. Most of the studies of the modern science are devoted to the analysis of the present as the only form of the human existence. But in this case there is a loss of understanding of the continuity of the social development, underestimation of the link between generations, their unity and succession.

To understand how the unique characteristics of the generations are formed, why the process of the succession in the modern society is so complicated and unpredictable, it is necessary to establish the meaning of the category of the social memory and refer to the existing scientific explanation for this phenomenon. Referring to the social memory concepts, we will also distinguish four directions: philosophical, psychological, cultural and social.

The philosophical approach is based on the works of John Locke, I. Kant, Hegel, K. Marx, F. Nietzsche, M. Heidegger, A. Bergson, and others. One of the greatest philosophers of modern age John Locke laid the foundation for further scientific analysis of the memory phenomenon. The scientist referred the memory to the field of the sensory perception and criticized the attempts to place it beyond the cognizer. Locke explained the coherency of some kinds of recollections of different people by the communication only, but not by the existence of the certain over-individual knowledge. It was an attempt to remove the sacredness of the memory by moving it into the psycho-physiological processes sphere.

Hegel pointed to the close link between the memory, language and thought. The memory serves as a 'cache' storing an infinite number of images. If necessary, they are recovered by the power of imagination and recollection. The language is a powerful mechanism for activating the memory as the human being following the language signs, recreates the ideas and images associated with them.

The French philosopher Henri Bergson in his work Matter and Memory described two types of memory - the memory of the body and the memory of the spirit - two different forms of feeling the past experience. The first on is pragmatic, focused on the results and serves as an adaptive mechanism. The second one is shaped and less improvised. It is activated, for example, by the need to quickly make an important decision. One of the functions of the human brain the scientist saw in the filtration and retention of the information that can become useful in the certain situations.

Gradually, thanks to the investigations of the philosophers, the scientific prerequisites for the memory analysis as one of the ordinary human activities have been formed. The interest in this aspect of the human life has been taken up in other scientific fields.

The understanding of the memory as one of the cognitive processes has naturally led to the fact that the scientific knowledge featured the widespread psychological approach to the analysis of this phenomenon. The psychologists Hermann Ebbinghaus, Alexander Luria, etc have published many works on the memory issues. The understanding of the fact that the memory has not only the purely psychological, but also the social nature has been developed within the framework of the social psychology. For example, the theory on the collective unconscious by Jung contains the notions on the “inherited categories” reflecting the archetypes put in the human being (inherited ancient images, based on the experience of all mankind). The archetypes influence the formation of the individual's recollections and their interpretation, as the collective unconscious is the total of the memory's traces of the human race.

The cultural approach is presented in the works of Yuri Lotman, Jan Assmann, and is based on the understanding of the memory as the basis of the cultural and historical heritage of the nation, the spiritual potential of people. The soviet cultural scientist Lotman argued that the culture determines the content of the collective memory, dictating what should be kept, and what, for the sake of the dominant paradigm, should be forgotten. The change of the memory's politics entails the change of attitude to this or that cultural facts of the past. For example, after the Bolsheviks came to power, the icons, which have long been revered in Russia, were destroyed, however, in modern Russia they have regained their cultural and historical significance. The cultural space is the unified field of the collective memory. It is not monolithic, but encompasses many contexts of the memory corresponding to different social groups, subcultures and generations.

The German culture expert Assmann studied the memory phenomenon based on the analysis of the ancient civilizations. Assmann said about the existence of two types of the collective memory - hot and cold (he borrowed the idea from Levi-Strauss, who described the hot and cold types of the society). The ‘cold memory’ is focused more on the historical process, captures and stores the facts, dates and events of the past almost apart from their meaning for the present. The ‘hot memory’ is opportunistic and often becomes an instrument of the politics. In this type of memory certain historical facts are buried in oblivion or distorted for the sake of the current political interests.

The cultural approach has already clearly showed the indication of the link between the memory and social time, which, when filled with the cultural and political content, affects the facts remaining in the memory of the generations and their interpretation.

The sociology development contributed to the recognition of the memory as an important social phenomenon being the basis for many collective representations. The sociologists have studied various aspects of manifestation of the historical memory in the daily life of the society, its impact on the identity of the generations and on the common social attitudes.

One of the first sociologists, who developed the theory of the historical memory, was the disciple of Emile Durkheim the French scientist M. Halbwachs, having presented his ideas in the works Social Frameworks of Memory and Collective Memory. He showed that the human memory is mediated by the personal experience (eventually the recollections are deformed under the influence of the past years) and socially determined (it is influenced by the status position, belonging to a particular class, education level, etc.). Each individual has two types of memory - individual (personal, autobiographical) and collective (historical, social), which are interconnected, but they can interfere with each other. The first one mainly concerns the facts of the personal life of a human, while the second one - reflects the events that happen to the human as a member of a large social community. The collective memory is structured by the social groups, which include the individual. They also determine what and in what context will be remembered by this individual.

The recollections of the events, which have not been directly witnessed by the person, but have been learned from the news reports, can become an example of the collective memory. This type of memory is of great importance for the formation of the national identity, civil or religious, thus, it often becomes an instrument of the manipulation and 'myth-making'.

Let's see how the prevalent social attitudes and stereotypes have an impact on the person's memory. At the beginning of the second half of the XX-th century, the US scientists conducted a curious experiment: the magazine published the photo depicting the fight in the bus between the two men - white and black. A month later, the readers were asked to recall the image and provide the editors with an answer to the question: who of the participants of the fight was holding the knife. Almost 90% of the respondents were convinced that the owner of the melee weapon was the Afro-American. Along with the distribution of the responses, the magazine published the photo - the white man was holding the knife in his hand. This result is simply explained by the social situation of that time, characterized by the racial conflict and ethnic strife that leave a deep impression in the public mind and determine the recollections [2].

The representatives of the Frankfurt School of Sociology Theodor Adorno (1951) and Jürgen Habermas (1985) studied the manifestations of the collective memory of the generations in the context of Germany's fascist past. Their conclusions regarding this phenomenon were different. Adorno suggested the concept of 'studying the past' and pointed to the desire of the German people to deny the recent past, to the reassessment of the relevant elements of both individual and collective memory. Thus, the 'memory's destruction' has just the rational character. Habermas, on the other hand, believed that Germany features the discussion process of discussing the national socialist manifestations, which aims at overcoming the guilt and finding the new national identity.

Germany actually has experienced three waves of the post-war memory politics associated with the periods of the growing up and changing the three generations: military, ‘generation of recovery’ and post-war. These periods can be easily illustrated by the example. In 1949, the amnesty law for the war criminals (for example, persons who commanded the ‘death squads’) was issued, which aimed at the reconcilement with the past. In 1958, the Center for Investigation of Nazi Crimes, largely contributing to the initiation of the Frankfurt Process of 1963-65, was established. In the 1970s, the ‘places of memory’ (former concentration camps) took on the educational function by offering various educational programs, which allow developing the theme of the fascism crimes on the real historical material[1].

With the change of the generations, the content of the social memory is partially changed and the events of the past are gradually endowed with the new meanings. To analyze the link between the historical memory and social time, it is necessary to consider the structure of the social memory, highlighting its basic elements.

The structure of the social memory can be represented as a set of the three related but different in content components: the unconscious level, level of cultural heritage and own experience of the generation.

The unconscious level encompasses that is transmitted, as they say, with ‘mother's milk’ - consciousness archetypes, mental dispositions and mentality. Thanks to these structures, the generations’ reaction to the events of the environment, even those occurring in different historical times, may have the certain similarity.

The cultural component is extremely extensive and diverse. It is customary divided into the material and spiritual. The first one includes the artifacts and production items created by the labor of the generations - tools, craft items, etc. The second one includes the results of the spiritual activity, for example, aesthetic, moral and religious ideas, theories and images, traditions, identity and language.

The language is one of the most important sources of the social memory of the generations, its fundamental element. Not surprisingly that in 1917, in spite of the many challenges in the country, the Bolsheviks urgently carried out the reform of the Russian language, which resulted in the removal of some letters of the alphabet, change of the grammar rules, etc. For example, the meaning of the word ‘мiр’, which meant the totality created by the Creator, disappeared, however the word ‘мир’ was preserved in the meaning of the state without war. The language is considered as something sacred in the completely different cultures. For example, the Jews attach great importance to the Hebrew language, regarding it as a condition for the existence of the Jewish people [3]

Note that the cultural heritage is fundamentally based on the unconscious memory of the generations, which is manifested in the samples of both spiritual and material culture. One can note the following modern Russian sociologists, who devoted their works to the laws of development and manifestations of the culture in the society: Ionin, Khrenov. [4, 5]

The content of the collective memory is to some extent determined by the direct experience of the generations, since the participation in the historical events, emotions that arise in response to them, interaction with the environment are stored in the memory for many years, and even transmitted to the descendants as the family bringing.

The social memory is the basis of the society and is a powerful mechanism for the transmission of the social experience. It performs an important social function - integrates people into a single society, providing the deep connection between the generations. Its content is fragmented, culturally and politically determined.

To understand how the social memory is transmitted from the generation to generation, that allows its elements to stay as complete as possible and future be transmitted to the generations, it is necessary to identify the main forms of the social memory transmission. Their presence and effect can be observed both at the macro level - generational relations in the society as a whole, in the professional groups and educational system, as well as at the micro level - in the families. The social time determines the content of the social memory, changing it according to the priority of the events and ideologies, however, there are the memory transmission forms, which are not easily affected by the conjuncture and they are relatively stable even in the rapidly changing world. Let's consider the basic memory transmission forms - traditions (rituals, rites and customs), myths, and symbols.

The traditions are an essential part of the people's lives - they are the means of education and learning, emotional and psychological effects, unity of the generations’ culture. The traditions transmitted from the generation to generation, reflect the ethnic, cultural, religious, professional, and other features of the social communities, as well as their distinctive experience for the activities. The family traditions are more specific, emotionally saturated, focused on the socialization of children. Usually families have their own unwritten laws of behavior, strengthening the family relations, let us say, a kiss at leave-taking or shared evening meal, visit to a museum on a weekend or storing the heirlooms. Any tradition becomes so after its perception by the next generation, that is, it must pass the test of time. If the tradition does not become a value to the younger generation, and it is only the circumstance that should be obeyed at some time, it will gradually loose its meaning and fade.

The ritual is a specially developed and structured sequence of actions expressing the specific cultural and social significance of the human relations. The usage of rituals is typical even for the wild world, for example, the audio or visual attraction during the mating behavior of animals. In everyday life of people, the ritual behavior performs an adaptive function. For example, the psychologists recommend developing a special set of actions performed before the bedtime for the baby's quick falling asleep (reading the favorite book, lullaby, and so on).

The greetings with friends, using ‘how are things with you?’ also has a ritual character. The culture expert Ionin describes the results of the experiment conducted by Garfinkel: "The student experimenter got the task when meeting with a friend, acquaintance or colleague instead of the normal response to the greeting ask what is the meaning of the partner's greeting. Having heard the standard question: “How are things with you?” the student stopped and proceeded to the 'interrogation' of the friend, who had the misfortune to fall in his way: "What do you mean by 'things'? How are things at the department? With my health? Or with my girlfriend? Or something else...?" The interviewee began to get angry. The conversation usually ended with a quarrel and shouts: "Fuck you ... I do not need your things!", or with some other equally stormy feelings manifestations" (4). In this case, the ritual was intended to carry out the communicative rather than informative function, and the violation of its semantic content has led to the conflict between the communicating parties.

Despite of the fact that it is difficult to determine the line between the rites, rituals and customs and the culture scientists offer a variety of criteria for this purpose, it is assumed that the distinguishing feature of the custom is the everyday or practical orientation. Usually the customs are played out of habit, as an echo of any ancient rituals, having lost or completely distorted its original meaning. Thus, the widespread Russian custom to visit the graves of the dead relatives on Easter also has its roots. It was formed in the Soviet times, when most churches were closed, while the need to spend the day in a special way preserved. The churchyards became the places where people could pray and congratulate each other on the holiday, and commemorate the dead. By the way, today the Orthodox priests urged to remember the ancestral traditions and commemorate the dead on the special days - Radonitsa, Parent Saturday, anniversaries of the death, while on Easter people shall visit churches, and rejoice with the family and loved ones.

Symbols as a form of the social memory transmission play an important role in the society. The symbol is a picture that is used for the transmission of an idea or identification mark of any phenomenon, object and concept. The meaning of the symbol does not have to be identical to the image, but it has to be indirectly connected to it. While interpreting the symbol, it is important to understand the ideas and semantic load of the image, its connection to the expressed object, as without this it is almost impossible to give the correct perception of the symbol.

One may recall that on the eve of the Victory Day, the Russians deck the cars and clothes with the ‘St. George Ribbon’, which symbolizes the gratitude to the veterans, respect of the new generation for the memory of the fallen soldiers. Let's refer to the results of the sociological survey conducted in 2012. To the question "why are you positive about the fact that people attach the ribbons?" the respondents most often answered that it is the memory of the war and its victims, a sign of gratitude (Table 1).

Table 1 - Reasons for the positive attitude towards the St. George Ribbon as a symbola

variants of answers: %
it is the memory of the war and dead, a sign of respect and gratitude to the veterans 39
it is the festive symbol, a symbol of the Victory 12
it is the element of the festival, creates the festive mood 9
it is good 5
it is the manifestation of the patriotism and pride for the country 4
it gives a sense of solidarity with other people 4
other 5
aSource. — “Dominants” project, “FOMnibus” quiz, April 22, 2012, available from: [Accessed: 18.03.2016].  

As we see, first and foremost the Russians take the St. George Ribbon as a sign of the memory, symbol of the unity with the past of the country and respect for the previous generations. Not coincidentally people say that amnesia is the death of the individual in the person. In the general social terms it is certainly not about the loss of the certain facts from school material on the Russian language or geometry, but about the loss of the representation on the kin, ancestors, historical and cultural heritage of the nation and country.

The social memory, based on the life and experience of the previous generations, is the mechanism of uniting the society and ensuring the succession in the intergenerational space. The loss and distortion of the memory deprive the society of the stability and identity and violate its unity and historical perspective. The generations' transmission is impossible without it - succession of the social experience, values, knowledge and ways of life based on the direct or indirect interaction of the generations. This interaction suggests that there are two very important aspects. First, the previous generations bear some responsibility for the future of their offspring. Second, the succession of the values and behaviors from the ancestors does not absolutely imply their inheritance. On the contrary, the processes of the partial denial and rethinking of the life experience of the previous generations contribute to the further development of the society and facilitate the succession processes.

The problem of the succession in the relations of the generations has always existed, however it is particularly acute in the periods of the social instability, when the misunderstanding between the parents and children is growing, and the intergenerational differences and contradictions are aggravating.

The sociological studies of the generations’ succession show the reference to the economic and cultural approaches.

The economic approach is based on the Marxism theory. The generational change is considered in terms of the reproduction and change of the class structure of the society. Within the framework of this approach, the researchers are interested in such issues as the employment opportunities of the generations, their adaptability to the changing market conditions, economic culture, especially the career building, as well as factors influencing the professional activity of the generations, etc.

The cultural view on the succession goes back to the works of the anthropologist Edward Tylor (1871) and English religious scholar James Frazer (2002), dedicated to the study of the religion and magic. The succession concept proposed by Margaret Mead (1964) is also very popular. It describes three types of cultures: post-figurative, co-figurative and pre-figurative.

In the modern society, the problem of the generations' succession is particularly acute due to the various reasons. Let's consider four of the most influential factors: scientific and technical progress, civilization dynamics, moral degradation and globalization.

The scientific and technological progress makes the demands to the level of the knowledge and skills of the younger generation. There are new opportunities for learning and obtaining the necessary skills, which are often not available to the older generation. Thus, the authority of the elders and confidence in their competence are indirectly undermined. The differences in the level and nature of education, professional interests, communicative potential, etc. are increasing. Thus, despite of the fact that the progress is actually impossible without the succession, it is like a snake swallowing its own tail, as it leads to the depreciation of the experience of the previous generations and contributes to the aggravation of the eternal problem between the parents and children.

Civilization dynamics in the modern society outpaces the possibilities of intergenerational continuity mechanism. The point is that the rate of the social change does not allow an individual to come to terms with such changes. Theoretically, the rate of profound social changes should correspond to the rhythm of the generational change. A significant change of social ground traditional to the society fell approximately within the lifespan of three generations of a family (a large cycle of generation change, when the population is replaced totally). Such a rhythm of long-living social and economic processes permits to accept the novation, adapt to it and avoid intergenerational conflicts. The processes where only two generations rotate (a minor change of generations) raise instability of the society and impede the continuity processes.

In modern Russian society there coexist several generations, which lifestyle and mentality are determined by fundamental social and political changes (the USSR[2] – the CIS[3] - Russia). The system of values had been changing correspondingly, which escalated the intergenerational conflict and made it impossible for the young people to form a relatively stable identity based on traditions and shared socio-cultural environment.

Contemptuous disregard of goodness and morals is common to young people, and planted by mass media, while the cult of egocentrism becomes a stable marker of modern social environment. It results in formation of the specific system of values posing a threat to integrity of the Russian society and national security. The youth considers the only pressing problems are those, which directly relate to them as individuals. But events that affect the existence of people as an independent unique nation recede into the background and appear to be not relevant to them. However, such moments as preservation of cultural values and traditional religions, unity of Russia, a unified national identity are important to stability of the society. Analysis of young Russians’ value priorities revealed that the most pressing problems of modern Russia, which require immediate actions, according to them, are: inflation, rise in prices (60%), healthcare, education (54%), crime (52%), terrorism (50%). The least significant issues are – lack of national idea (15%), population decline (19%), religious intolerance (20%), soullessness of population (25%), degradation of national culture (29%), risk of Russia’s disintegration (29%). [6, 7]

Modern geopolitical situation and globalization in particular play an important role in the continuity of generations. Globalization tends to change an individual perception of the world around, people, country towards worldliness and practical purposes, displaces moral guides, intellectual values and cultural traditions of previous generations.

We have examined the factors affecting the process of intergenerational continuity. But the activity of a generation based on the adopted experience takes place within a specific time interval. Inherence of a generation to the course of history draws the attention to the phenomenon of time as one of the conditions for the existence and life-sustaining activity of all age cohorts. To find out how the time affects the key characteristics of generations and why it is so important to analyze the age cohorts in the context of temporality, let us consider the essence of 'time' category and highlight the main time rhythms affecting the social memory of generations.

Time is a feature of reality perceived as consecutive run of events. There exist numerous attempts to define the category – in philosophy, classical and quantum physics, psychology and other sciences. There are different theories of time, based on synthesis of philosophical thought and advances of physics - for example, Newton’s concept of absolute space and time, E. Mach, G. Minkowski, A. Poincare, M. Planck and other scientists’ theories.

Philosophers also tried to answer what the time is and what are its essential features. Suffice it to recall, for example, the works of such prominent thinkers as Plato and Aristotle, Kant and Hegel. Plato’s vision of nature of time is rather mythological. The worldly reality appears to be a prototype and reflection of eternal and constant ideal world. The time on earth acts as a likeness of eternity of ideas, its imperfect imitation, and time seems to “run around in circles”. A man may find the evidence of that in cyclic movement of celestial objects – stars, planets. These ideas are spelled out in Plato’s treatise “Timaios”, written in traditional form of a dialogue and including, additionally, the judgements about creation and arrangement of space.

Aristotle, too, points to connection of time and motion and declares that the one does not exist in the absence of the other, and movement of celestial objects relates to periodic sequence as time feature. The scholar bases such understanding on facts and events perceived and observed by a man, – for example, seasonal change, alternation of day and night, movement of planets, etc. Such viewpoint is close to sociological concepts as well, which will be discussed below.

Kant states that time is non-substantial, but assumes it to be a necessary criterion of sensorial perception of objects around us: “But although the time taken by itself and absolutely is something imaginary, however, as it belongs to the immutable law of  sensible perception as such, it is an essentially true concept and condition of contemplative presentation, extending to infinity on all possible objects of senses”.

Hegel, in the contrary, in an effort to conceive how physical objects are relevant to phenomena of space and time, states the priority of time to material objects. While inviting to analyze the outside world from conceptual to particular, the thinker criticizes the concept of time as a form of existence of matter.

A long time ago the scientists paid attention that time is non-uniform and varied, depends on specific processes it is viewed with.  For example, English mathematician and physicist I. Newton, in his attempt to explain the nature of time, described the absolute (real) time and relative (common) time. Russian natural scientist V.I. Vernadsky, while presenting the theory of noosphere, has distinguished between biological and geological time. The main difference is that the biological time, characterizing the existence of living organisms is irreversible.

Sociological theory gradually forms the need of a new approach to understand social existence and its laws. Durkheim was among the first in sociology to point out that time is the result of collective consciousness that sets the rhythm of cultural life of the society and structures it. The present is determined by the past, but not limited to it– understanding the past is essential for understanding the present and is an important prerequisite for social changes in the future. For example, when analyzing the problems of suicide Durkheim emphasizes that the suicidal behavior is a social fact, and, therefore, the product of time and historical period. That is, one may compare the number of suicides among young people today and a hundred years ago only when taking into account the social context of the time - considering the economic situation, the level of social cohesion, world stability, etc.

Social time is beginning to be considered as one of the moments determining the specifics of generations on the qualitative level. By putting in the category we imply that time exists not only as a physical phenomenon consisting in change and consequence of events, but as a process and the result of society life and generational change. Thus, social time is a continuous change of society states, social practices, systems of values and statuses. The dynamics of social time determines not a movement of physical objects, but rhythm of social life and interchange of important public events.

It is sure that people are guided by physical time, though there exist both psychological and social differences in its perception, in understanding of the past and future, youthfulness, ageing, death, various nuances of comprehension of life order and synchronization, etc. Psychological differences depend on various factors – primary on psychological constitution of people, their age (as a rule, the passage of time is faster for elderly than to young persons), gender, emotional state.

Besides, the filled in time principle is well known – the more a period of time is filled with events, the shorter it appears to be when being lived and the longer when flogging memory. This principle is the reason in attempting to establish the limits of generations. Not always it may be appropriate to take a definite period of time, one should measure the richness of the period in events of different kind. For instance, if the researcher compares social indicators of two young generations of 1980-ies and 1990-ies, he/she risks making methodological mistake. In each case, it is important to consider, that the second period is much richer in political and social events, which may affect the characteristic features of the young generation and make them far more similar.

Thus, the change of one social state by another, the transition from the past to the future is a very important process for those who research generations. The analysis of generational processes involves an everlasting separation of at least the past and the present, which is not too easy. The complexity of generational analysis is in the need to consider several levels of time-dependent rhythms where any generation may be included. In addition, each age cohort exists in complex time-dependent matrix, and the material to join generation as a uniform substance and provide а continuity appears to be the social memory. The influence of social time specifics on essential features of generations and content of their social memory is obvious.

[1] Sources of Changes in Official Collective Memory (evidence from post-war Federal Republic of Germany) available from: [Accessed: 18.03.2016]

[2] The USSR – the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Soviet Union — the state which existed since 1922 till 1991 on the territory of Eastern Europe, Northern part of Central and Eastern Asia

[3] The CIS -  the Commonwealth of Independent States was founded by the leaders of RSFSR, Belarus and Ukraine  by signing the “Commonwealth of Independent States Agreement” on December 8, 1991 in Viskuli (Belovesha)


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