Author John Kotre
The Work of John Kotre
Lives, Memories, Legacies, Stories - The Work of John Kotre

Generativity and the Generative Process

"Generativity" is a term coined by the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson in 1950 to denote "a concern for establishing and guiding the next generation." It can be expressed in literally hundreds of ways, from raising a child to stopping a tradition of abuse, from writing a family history to restoring land. You try to "make a difference" with your life, to "give back," to "take care" of your community and your planet.


Some Japanese colleagues have translated "generativity" as "sedai-keisho-sei." "Sedai" means "the generations." "Keisho" means something like "receiving and putting your stamp on." And "sei" means "the sense of." That describes the process involved. You receive something from the past, you create something out of it, you pass it on to the future.


I've described the process in a short article written originally for Science & Theology News and in a longer talk I gave in Kyoto for the Future Generations Alliance Foundation.  Click on the links for Adobe PDFs.  The most complete treatment is in my book Make It Count, where I lay out eight "steps" along the Generative Way.


I've also posted PDFs of "Generative Humanity" and "Religion, Psychology and the Sterile Self,"--my earliest treatments of generativity--and another Kyoto presentation, "What Makes a Culture Generative?"  These pieces are philosophical in bent.  Things get more concrete in "Generativity and the Gift of Meaning," a little piece that interprets an elder tale from India.


If life stories are your cup of tea, try Outliving the Self, where eight men and women speak about the legacies they've received and the legacies they're creating, some of them on the dark side.

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Books by John Kotre