Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty

Oxford Univ. 2013. 224p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199931460. $29.95. SOC SCI
For many, the hallmarks of growing up remain getting a good job, owning a home, and having a stable family. But the last 50 years have been marked by an unmooring of blue-collar work, the erosion of established family structures, and a decline in prospects for many working-class Americans. With the gap between aspirations and possibilities increasing, many young people have had to adapt. Toggling between showing how economic and social trends are pushing traditional markers of adulthood out of reach and how individuals "ascribe meaning, order and progress" in their lives, Silva (postdoctoral fellow, John F. Kennedy Sch. of Government, Harvard Univ.), through interviews with youth in Lowell, MA, and Richmond provides thought-provoking perspectives on what it means to be an adult while being underemployed, uncommitted, and without many possibilities for betterment. The book is strongest in its discussion of the "mood economy" and how overcoming emotional trauma and transforming oneself are increasingly becoming important indicators of adulthood.
VERDICT While this work is timely, thorough, and important and asks very good questions, it is written with professionals in mind. This title will appeal to readers of sociology and to social scientists with an interest in class.

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