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How Adolescence Transformed the Adult World




Paul Howe


Cornell U.P.



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Paul Howe is Professor of Political Science at the University of New Brunswick. He is the author of the award-winning Citizens Adrift: The Democratic Disengagement of Young Canadians.


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. 


“Paul Howe's book offers insight into the farreaching effects of youth cultures on adult cultures and politics in the 21st century. Teen Spirit shows that where adolescents congregate and cluster, adolescent qualities become entrenched.”  —Kate Eichhorn, The New School, author of The End of Forgetting “Many books have chronicled the ways in which the history of adolescence has been shaped by the adults responsible for raising, teaching, and mentoring the next generation. Paul Howe turns this narrative on its head, explaining how adulthood itself has been transformed by the changing character of adolescence. Teen Spirit is provocative, original, and utterly fascinating.”  —Laurence Steinberg, author of Age of Opportunity “Teen Spirit is thoughtful, accessible, and provocative. P...


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