Paul Howe, "Teen Spirit: How Adolescence Transformed the Adult World" (Cornell UP, 2020)

10.16.2020 - By New Books in Sociology

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Paul Howe's book Teen Spirit: How Adolescence Transformed the Adult World (Cornell UP, 2020) offers a novel and provocative perspective on how we came to be living in an age of political immaturity and social turmoil. Award-winning author, Paul Howe, argues it's because a teenage mentality has slowly gripped the adult world.
Howe contends that many features of how we live today--some regrettable, others beneficial--can be traced to the emergence of a more defined adolescent stage of life in the early twentieth century, when young people started spending their formative, developmental years with peers, particularly in formal school settings. He shows how adolescent qualities have slowly seeped upwards, where they have gradually reshaped the norms and habits of adulthood. The effects over the long haul, Howe contends, have been profound, in both the private realm and in the public arena of political, economic, and social interaction. Our teenage traits remain part of us as we move into adulthood. We now need instruction manuals for adulting
Teen Spirit challenges our assumptions about the boundaries between adolescence and adulthood. Yet despite a cultural system that seems to be built on the ethos of Generation Me, it's not all bad. In fact, there is an equally impressive rise in creativity, diversity, and tolerance within society: all traits stemming from core components of the adolescent character. Howe's bold and suggestive approach to analyzing the teen in all of us helps make sense of the impulsivity driving society and to think anew about civic re-engagement.
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