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

Paperback | April 15, 2015

byJennifer M. Silva

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What does it mean to grow up today as working-class young adults? How does the economic and social instability left in the wake of neoliberalism shape their identities, their understandings of the American Dream, and their futures?Coming Up Short illuminates the transition to adulthood for working-class men and women. Moving away from easy labels such as the "Peter Pan generation," Jennifer Silva reveals the far bleaker picture of how the erosion of traditional markers of adulthood - marriage, a steady job, a house of one'sown - has changed what it means to grow up as part of the post-industrial working class. Based on one hundred interviews with working-class people in two towns - Lowell, Massachusetts, and Richmond, Virginia - Silva sheds light on their experience of heightened economic insecurity, deepeninginequality, and uncertainty about marriage and family. Silva argues that, for these men and women, coming of age means coming to terms with the absence of choice. As possibilities and hope contract, moving into adulthood has been re-defined as a process of personal struggle - an adult is no longer someone with a small home and a reliable car, butsomeone who has faced and overcome personal demons to reconstruct a transformed self. Indeed, rather than turn to politics to restore the traditional working class, this generation builds meaning and dignity through the struggle to exorcise the demons of familial abuse, mental health problems,addiction, or betrayal in past relationships. This dramatic and largely unnoticed shift reduces becoming an adult to solitary suffering, self-blame, and an endless seeking for signs of progress. This powerfully written book focuses on those who are most vulnerable - young, working-class people, including African-Americans, women, and single parents - and reveals what, in very real terms, the demise of the social safety net means to their fragile hold on the American Dream.

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From the Publisher

What does it mean to grow up today as working-class young adults? How does the economic and social instability left in the wake of neoliberalism shape their identities, their understandings of the American Dream, and their futures?Coming Up Short illuminates the transition to adulthood for working-class men and women. Moving away from ...

Jennifer M. Silva is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Bucknell University.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:208 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:April 15, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190231890

ISBN - 13:9780190231897

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Table of Contents

1. Coming of Age in a Risk Society2. Prisoners of the Present3. Insecure Intimacies4. Hardened Selves5. Coming of Age in the "Mood Economy"Conclusion: The Hidden Injuries of RiskNotesReferencesIndex

Editorial Reviews

"Coming Up Short is a brief, but powerful, update of the status, difficulties, behaviors and distresses that characterize the lives of young working class adults. Based on in-depth interviews with 100 subjects, both White and African American, the book is -- among other things -- a reminder ofthe power of qualitative research, where the subjects' statements and the vignettes about them poignantly document a number of themes in a way that statistical tables could not... Coming Up Short is highly recommended for sociologists and social welfare students and academics alike. It informs intelling detail the difficult circumstances and self-perceptions of a significant portion of the American population. It is also a window into how the 'helping professions' have influenced the thinking of young adults and suggests that those professions need help their clients see their troubles inbroader terms than they apparently currently do." --Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare