Growing Up Absurd – Paul Goodman (1960)

“Growing Up Absurd is a 1960 book by Paul Goodman on the relationship between American juvenile delinquency and societal opportunities to fulfill natural needs. Contrary to the then-popular view that juvenile delinquents should be led to properly regard society and its goals, Goodman argued that young American men were justified in their disaffection because their society lacked the preconditions for growing up, including meaningful work, honorable community, sexual freedom, and spiritual sustenance. The book drew from Goodman’s prior works, psychotherapy practice, and personal experiences and relations in New York City. Originally offered an advance by a small New York press to write on city youth gangs, he was asked to return the funds when the resulting book, written in late 1959, focused less on the youth than the American culture and value systems in which the youth were raised. In total, 19 publishers rejected Growing Up Absurd before Commentary magazine editor Norman Podhoretz found the piece to relaunch his magazine and encouraged Random House publisher Jason Epstein to reconsider the book. Goodman had a contract the next day. Random House published the book in 1960 and a Vintage Books paperback edition followed two years later. … It was widely read across 1960s college campuses and popular among student activists and the New Left, who assimilated his ideology. Growing Up Absurd transformed Goodman’s outcast career into mainstream fame as a social critic, including invitations to lecture at hundreds of colleges. In later years, reviewers reproached Goodman’s exclusion of women from his analysis. Many specifics of the book became dated with time, as well. New York Review Books reissued Growing Up Absurd in 2012. Following World War II, amidst underlying fears from nuclear proliferation, American radicals recognized increasingly regimented societal expectations as ‘the organized system’ by the mid-1950s. Themes of rising defiant, restless, disaffected youth culture seceding from social order became popular in the media, between teenage gangs, bohemian beatniks, and the more reckless working-class youth. Growing Up Absurd follows 1950s sociological critiques like The Organization Man but instead of focusing on the personnel, focuses on the collateral damage. …”
Writing the Riots
NY Times: Gadfly of the ’60s, Getting His Due, NY Times: It’s Purpose That Counts; GROWING UP ABSURD. … By John K. Galbraith (Oct. 30, 1960)

About 1960s: Days of Rage

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