Exploring the world of economics, work, family and community.

Young People Trying to Become Adults Without Steady Work

June 26th, 2013

It is not the shop floor, but rather the struggle to come to terms with its disappearance that characterizes their life-worlds  …….  they anchor their lives in self-management amid the insecurity of the service sector and the fragility of personal relationships and public commitments it creates …. In an era of short-term flexibility, constant flux, and hollow institutions, their transition to adulthood has become inverted; coming of age does not entail entry into social groups and institutions, but rather the explicit rejection of them ….. they feel completely alone, responsible for their own fates and dependent on outside help only at their peril.”

This is from Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in the Age of Uncertainty, a new – and excellent – book by Jennifer Silva which chronicles what the erosion of steady work is doing to our society. Silva interviewed 100 young Americans from working-class families: it’s hardly a stretch to assume that the emotional pain and short-circuited lives she chronicles is experienced by many more young people, including those from less challenged family environments, across the US and Canada.

Silva wrote an Op-Ed piece for last Sunday’s New York Times, Young and Isolated.  At a minimum, read this.

Steady work may not be everything in life, but as Jennifer Silva convincingly argues (to a conclusion I obviously share), young people can’t build much of a life without it.

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