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Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture Hardcover – April 19, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Printing (numberline) edition (April 19, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670038377
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670038374
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #732,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Although popular assumption might place the birth of teenage culture alongside the rise of rock 'n' roll in the 1950s, Savage (England's Dreaming) traces a more elaborate backstory that extends into the late 19th century. His catalogue of influences and indicators bounces from Goethe and Rimbaud to teenage girls' diaries, but the account only begins to pick up steam at the end of the First World War, as a generation of British youth reject the values of the elders who sent them into battle. Later, in the U.S., Prohibition not only taught booze-loving college students disrespect for the law, it put them in contact with a criminal underground that strengthened their subversive tendencies. The analysis of teen culture during the Second World War is particularly strong, moving from the Hitler Youth and rebellious " swing kids" in Germany to the Zoot Suit riots of Los Angeles and the "Zazou" movement of occupied Paris. Savage weaves his disparate sources into a convincing narrative of how adolescents were molded by political and cultural pressures into the consumer-friendly category of " teenager" by the end of WWII, but while individual anecdotes carry some verve, the writing never fully sheds its dry academic tone. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Savage's highly acclaimed history of the English punk movement (England's Dreaming, 1991)won praise for its enthusiastic yet penetrating portrayal of the anarchic Sex Pistols and the culture of frustration that fueled them. His latest book searches for the sources of youth culture, the "living in the now, pleasure-seeking, product-hungry" global phenomenon that both defines and is defined by consumerism. Reminding us that youth culture existed long before the 1950s--as demonstrated by Rimbaud, Wilde, and Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther, as well as Barrie's Peter Pan--Savage chronicles the fitful evolution of our understanding of adolescence as well as the changing (and unchanging) activities of teenagers in the early twentieth century. As with his previous work, the author adeptly situates pop-culture trends within broader cultural shifts: the relationship between youth-icon Rudolph Valentino and changing sexual mores, for example. In doing so, however, Savage pays particular and lengthy attention to war's ability to separate generations as well as to crush and/or heighten the manic impulses of youth. The result is an enlightening and serious analysis of modernity itself, as nuanced as it is ambitious. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Clary Antome on August 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is much more than a mere enquiry into the origins of youth culture - it is actually an absorbing historical account of what young people (in Western Europe and the USA) have experienced as the world underwent two big wars, a great economic crash, and several ideological experiments (from communism to fascism to "consumerism").

There seems to be an underlying question throughout Savage's quite detailed (and carefully researched) chronicle of youth from the mid-19th century to 1945: what happens when you have a) an economic system that needs to continually develop and expand in order to keep functioning (what we can summarize as "industrial society" or "capitalism"); and b) an oversupply of individuals who have to be organized in accordance with that system's necessities/aims (what we call "the mass")? The answer: you make youth, the most volatile and vigorous social cohort, instrumental - the pivotal point around which society defines (and renews) itself.
Savage shows how from their organization around schools, factories and all kinds of diversions in times of peace, to their incorporation into armies in times of war, young people in industrial societies have been exposed to several more or less successful experiments in the complicated art of social management. Thus their energies were either channelled into productive and leisurely activities when the system of industrial production was focused on commercial expansion (developing a stunning variety of mass entertainments, fashion industries, etc) - or they were used as a violently destructive force when the system was concerned with geopolitical expansion (most clearly visible in WWI and WWII and colonialism).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The concept of teenagers as a group separate from children and adults is relatively new. It wasn't until World War II that the word existed and that was in response to advertisers who realized that young people had money to spend. But teenagers weren't invented during the 1940s. In writing the history of teenagers from Victorian times until World War II, author Jon Savage has shown that their history is our history. They don't govern nations or run companies, but they fight wars, earn money, commit crimes and when it comes to movies and music, it's teenagers who decide the trends.

Savage defines teenage loosely, as being from about age twelve to mid-twenties. Teenagers aren't children anymore, but they don't have the responsibilities or the experience of adults. They are like adults who haven't mastered their emotional volume control yet. Their highs are higher and their lows are lower than adults who've learned to expect disappointments and are too self conscious to enjoy with abandon. Teenagers have their lives ahead of them and anything is possible. They have little to lose and can take risks that most adults wouldn't dare.

Teenage is full of interesting stories of trend-setting teenagers such as Oscar Wilde and Arthur Rimbaud, but it's not until World War I that teenagers became really influential. With the invention of movies and radio, teenagers became the early-adopters of their times. Rudolph Valentino's fame and the reaction to his death and funeral remind me of the arrival of the Beatles in New York. Leopold and Loeb killed a child and thought they were too smart to get caught. When they were caught, they acted like celebrities during the trial, wearing stylish clothes and attracting an ardent following of young admirers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. Pactor VINE VOICE on October 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Author Jon Savage is best noted for writing what many consider to be the definitive history of punk rock- "England's Dreaming" (personally, I prefer Greil Marcus's "Lipstick Traces".) In "Teenage"- his new book- he gets all ambitious. Teenage is a straight forward social history of what Savage calls "the creation of youth culture." One of the facts i learned this book, was that socialologist/philosopher Talcott Parsons coined the term "youth culture" in 1943.

I think this book is a must read for professionals in the culture industries- journalists, music industry folks, etc. The 450 page length is a tad offputting, but the length is set off by the structure of the book: episodic, proceeding from the 1890s- to 1945 in chronological orders, most focusing on one specific youth cultures from the U.S., the U.K. or Germany (France is mostly absent, along with Italy, Austria and Spain).

Generally speaking, Savage explicates his (fairly non-controversial) thesis that the industrial revolution stimulated the consciousness of youth as a class (by getting them into the work force early, creating more leisure time on a society wide basis, and weakening the relationship between children and their parents) and that "Youth" emerged in the mid 1920s as the most powerful "demographic" of western market capitalism.

Not a very novel set of ideas- I think most would already "know" the above paragraph to be true at some innate level. The devil, of course, is in the details, and it is Savage's work with the primary sources of each particular era which elevates this work from tedious pop history to a must read classic.
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