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Growing Up Absurd: Problems of Youth in the Organized System Paperback – August 12, 1962

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (August 12, 1962)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394700325
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394700328
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 4.5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #404,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I read Growing Up Absurd in 1967, a few months after I got out of the army, having served my two years as an active duty draftee. I was working as a shipper-dispatcher in a large bakery: I unloaded baked goods from large trucks and distributed them among much smaller trucks for delivery to homes and stores. At the time, that kind of job paid enough to raise a family in which the other spouse worked at her discretion. Working class had not yet devolved into working poor. I drank coffee, smoked cigarettes, and ate chocolate eclairs with the truck drivers. The work got done, but there were no time-and-motion study industrial engineers gauging my efficiency. The job was not the sort that you took home. As an occupational bridge between the army and a state university, I thought it was all pretty good. The job made a simple but solid sort of sense, It seemed useful. After reading Paul Goodman's book, I began to wonder why I was aspiring to anything of higher status and income, the kind of work that demanded one or more university degrees.

In retrospect, however, it's good that I was determined to be upwardly mobile. The kind of job I had in 1967 may or may not still exist, but it certainly does not pay the bills which accumulate when raising a family. Working class and working poor have, indeed, become coterminous. This is not something that Goodman foresaw, but in the '60's neither did anyone else except an occasional Marxist who didn't think Keynesian fiscal policy would work well forever.

Even in the '60's, however, and with regard to the hardy and conventional working class, Goodman raised pertinent, and entirely new to me, questions such as "Why would anyone find satisfaction in working as a mechanic repairing trucks that delivered the New York Times?
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Format: Paperback
What a great and wonderful book! Bunches of insight about the natural disaffection of the modern citizen. Truly a book about one of society's big questions.

Oh... wait... this was written in 1959? But there's all that government-business collusion? And the outrageous pharmaceutical industry and media monopolization scandals? And the hope for the near-future?

1959?! How stinkin' depressing! Great book. Read it; maybe the world is ripe for change.

Okay, the part about Russia is dated.
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Format: Paperback
As another reviewer, Dylan Miller, stated, "this ain't dated." If anything, his analysis of the woes of society is even truer today than when he wrote the book at the beginning of the `60's. This was a second reading for me, after 40 some odd years. Some of the vocabulary is quaint, e.g., The "Beats," "hipsters," et al., but many of his central criticisms ring solid. Perhaps the saddest part is wondering who are the "Paul Goodmans'" today, or are they all co-opted?

I continue to believe that Goodman is strongest in his critiques on the nature of work, both in this book, and in his excellent "Communitas," which he co-authored with his brother, Percival. Once mankind mastered the "means of production," there has been a steady, fundamental problem with how a person is to live in a meaningful fashion. Much work is busy work, to keep people occupied. Essentially, one person digs a hole, and another comes, and fills it in. Fifty years on, the endless "war on terror" is a job creator; witness only the slender slice of thousands upon thousands of airport screeners.

The primary focus of the book though is on youth, generally men, and their acceptance or rejection of their adult roles in society - to use the words from Charles Reich's "The Greening of America," another classic from this period, " the machine tooling of the young to fit the needs of various baroque bureaucracies...". He devotes two chapters, one each, to groups who reject their roles: one he calls "the early resigned," the other "the early fatalist." The former are roughly what was once called "The Beat Generation," primarily the intelligent who consciously rejected society's assigned roles, and tried to maintain a viable economic life at the fringes of society.
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Format: Paperback
Paul Goodman knew the 1950s, its bland neighborhoods, its schools so like prisons, its emphasis on athletics and prom queens. His book, "Growing Up Absurd," told every high school graduate and fresh-faced frosh in college exactly what they already knew.

High school was and is a waste of time and energy. How much better to just skip it entirely. High school students grew up deformed and degenerated, skipping classes, taunting teachers and each other, not doing homework and still making the honor roll.

Just having an adult say these things, recognizing just how absurd high school continues to be is so freeing, and so affirming. And about time, too.

However, nothing notable has been done to improve it since the 1950s, and no matter how that boring school day is arranged, it still feels like prison.
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For those who criticize this book for being dated - it was first published in 1960. For its time it was a groundbreaking and important book covering the issues of youth. This is an important book for understanding the 1960s and early 1970s and the issues that drove that generation. Many of the problems Goodman writes about have never adequately been addressed and still gnaw at us today. Any author who can maintain his relevance in terms of coming to terms with his own time and still have some relevance half a century later, I think, has done an outstanding job.
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