The Ambitious Generation, by Barbara Schneider and David Stevenson

Adolescence has a relatively brief history. It did not emerge as an identifiable life stage until the early 20th century. Perhaps the most important influence on its development was capitalism's second technological phase, which rendered the unskilled labor of youth unnecessary and unwanted. This called for the creation of an institution to contain the young, now exiled from both childhood and adulthood.

Twentieth-century adolescence has developed in close alignment with the entertainment industry, which has assimilated youth into an all-pervasive consumer culture. At the same time, the shifting demands of global capitalism have narrowed their occupational options. Secondary and higher education has become increasingly abstracted from the rest of life: it is an insufficient but necessary credential.


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