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In a way it is a tribute to the versatile Paul Goodman's impressive verbal facility that he is capable of expanding into a book a theme which could be dealt with sufficiently in an essay of not inordinate length. The thesis of Growing Up Absurd which the author manages to state in various ways, buttressed by various circumstances, is that there is a disaffection for modern society on the part of the young because our organized system -- its conformity, its irrelevant competitiveness, its role-playing, its avoidance of risk, its phony culture, its public-relations attitude, its basic meaninglessness -- is inimical to the growth of excellence and manliness and that, in short, the things our society honors are not worth growing up to.
He deals mainly with the problems of young men because he feels that women do not have to find self-justification in their work and because ""youth problems"" are essentially boys' problems. He divides young men into two great groups: the Bright Young Men wasted in the Rat Race; and the bright young men unused and thwarted as Independents. Then there are the Problems: the Early Resigned among whom he places the Beat Generation who are qualified but who have quit the game; and the Early Fatalistic, the underprivileged who will never have a chance.
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He discusses the plight of these groups in a job market where there is very little serious man's work; in a class structure that is becoming more rigid; in a physical and social environment that has grown out of human scale; and in an atmosphere that generally does not encourage and certainly doesn't reward, the concept of Service. But finally, in spite of the pessimistic tone of the book, Goodman is encouraged and heartened by the expression of ""fraternity, animality and sexuality"" he sees in delinquent behavior, the Beat and the Angry Young Men.
Basically the book is a tour de force, lively and exceptionally readable. But it is certainly not, as the publishers claim, another Lonely Crowd.
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Growing Up Absurd
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New Statesman. Retrieved March 24, New York Review Books.
Retrieved Bibliography Dufresne, Todd Stanford: Stanford University Press. Podhoretz, Norman New York: The Free Press. Paul Goodman.
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