Generations, modernity and the problem of contemporary adulthood

Harry Blatterer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


On the most abstract level, this chapter attempts to show that the problem of contemporary adulthood is quintessentially a modern problem. Whatever its prefixes, modernity spells among other things an increasing differentiation and pluralisation of practices, ideas, norms and values. These changes give rise to tensions, contradictions and paradoxes with which the modern experience is shot through. Zygmunt Bauman (1995: 145) articulates the existential apprehensions and longings that flow from these quintessentially modern conditions:

The anxiety would be lessened, tensions allayed, the total situation made more comfortable, were the stunning profusion of possibilities somewhat reduced; were the world a bit more regular, its occurrences more repetitive, its parts better marked and separated; in other words — were the events of the world more predictable, and the utility or uselessness of things more immediately evident.

I have a strong suspicion that the particular strand of social scientific and lay discourse about adulthood with which I’m concerned in the present context is underpinned by an attempt to fix the unfixable, to determine and then prescribe the indeterminate and so to go against the grain of modernity. An excellent example is the discursive drift, which I call ‘the delayed adulthood thesis’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContemporary adulthood
Subtitle of host publicationcalendars, cartographies and constructions
EditorsJudith Burnett
Place of PublicationBasingstoke, UK
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9780230290297
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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