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Teen SpiritHow Adolescence Transformed the Adult World$
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Paul Howe

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501749827

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501749827.001.0001

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Adolescence Alone?

Adolescence Alone?

(p.144) 8 Adolescence Alone?
Teen Spirit

Paul Howe

Cornell University Press

This chapter addresses some key forces reshaping society over the past century (or more) that have combined with the rise of adolescent character traits in interesting and often unexpected ways to produce the adolescent society we see all around us today. The critical development was the articulation and dissemination of a philosophy that rejects entrenched privilege and tradition in favor of individual freedom. Personal autonomy and freedom of choice for all — or more simply liberalism, in the classical sense of the term — became the defining principles of the modern age. Other leading thinkers seeking to understand the state of today's society focus less on abstract philosophical ideals and more on the material realities that shape our lives. One prominent perspective holds that the main force of change is capitalism, now the dominant economic system in most parts of the world. In thinking about other factors that can help us better understand the evolution of the adolescent society, there is one that deserves special extended attention: the dramatic expansion in educational opportunities for people of all backgrounds. One trend that has puzzled many observers is the long-term decline in political engagement even as education levels have risen steadily over time.

Keywords:   adolescent society, individual freedom, personal autonomy, liberalism, capitalism, educational opportunities, political engagement

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