October 28, 2013

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Read Coming Up Short by Jennifer Silva Jennifer M. Silva's Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty (Oxford University Press, 2013) contributes to our understanding of the impact of forty years of neoliberalism on poor and working people in the US, the extreme perniciousness of the individual form, and the erosion of solidarity. Silva writes: "experiences of powerlessness, confusion, and betrayal within the labor market, institutions such as education and the government, and the family teach young working-class men and women that they are completely alone, responsible for their own fates and dependent on outside help at their peril. They are learning the hard way that being an adult means trusting no one by yourself." Silva frames her book in terms of adulthood: what are the markers of adulthood for the post-industrial working class? This is an important question: since 2009, about half of people between the ages of 18-24 live with their parents. Ever-increasing numbers of working people are postponing or forgoing marriage. Ever-more are pushed into "flexibile" work-lives such that they move in and out of the paid work-force under conditions increasingly disadvantageous to labor. The markers of successful adulthood have thus changed since the 50s and 60s when adult life was characterized by a set of basic, achievable steps: finish high school, get a job, get married, get a house, have kids. Contemporary capitalism has pushed even these basic milestones out of the reach of most working-class people. So, how do they narrate their lives? Silva argues that they focus on...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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