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Stop Time - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
cbertsch
cbertsch
Stop Time
The concept of "youth culture," even when it referred to the culture of actually existing youths, has always been the result of adults looking back on their own pasts. It is, in other words, a back formation transposed forward, predicated on the assumption that to have been a youth once is all that it is required to understand a youth in the present. That mode of identification through recollection is the sine qua non of pedagogical theory as well. The threat posed by technological innovation is that it guarantees that successive generations grow up with a set of experiences and aptitudes different from their forebears. Shoring up the breach demands the presumption of further equivalences, such as that learning to write on a typewriter is more or less the same as learning to write on a computer or that learning to use a rotary phone is more or less the same as learning to use a mobile phone. But that "more or less" opens up a margin for error that must be wished away with the help of that first equation, itself imprecise: one generation's youth is more or less the same as another. The result is a loop bound to introduce distortion with each repetition. The concept of "youth culture," in other words, is motivated by the desire to stop the very process of development it supposedly seeks to trace.

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grandissimus From: grandissimus Date: September 18th, 2007 06:43 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
The concept of "youth culture," even when it referred to the culture of actually existing youths, has always been the result of adults looking back on their own pasts. It is, in other words, a back formation transposed forward, predicated on the assumption that to have been a youth once is all that it is required to understand a youth in the present.

Your identification of "youth culture" as a falsely ahistorical category I found intriguing. I wonder if there isn't an element of the death-drive behind it, attenuated though it may be, "youth" representing a period of relative homeostasis between body and consciousness, a time when joints weren't yet balky, when the face wasn't yet creased or jowly, when there wasn't yet much noise in the neurologic circuit. To return to youth is to return to this time of fluid corporeal integrity, to a sort of uterine body; it may be that much of what we take to be mind-body duality proceeds from such things as nagging backaches or arthritis.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: September 18th, 2007 07:58 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I really like the way you formulate your point, especially that last bit after the semi-colon. And I totally agree with you. I was reading Beyond the Pleasure Pleasure Principle again recently, so I may have been thinking about the desire for return along those lines without realizing it. More recently, I've been reading some classic texts in Birmingham-related Culture Studies, which is why I zeroed in on the term "youth culture."
grandissimus From: grandissimus Date: September 18th, 2007 08:29 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Yes, I'd be interested in finding out whether Descartes ever suffered from hemorrhoids : )

C. just checked out a book entitled, Teenage, by that guy who wrote England's Dreaming. It's a popular-press title, but I wonder if it intersects with any of your meditations on the subject. I did notice the phrase "Youth Culture" in the book's subtitle.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: September 18th, 2007 08:48 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Thank you for reminding me of that book! I've spent a lot of time in and on England's Dreaming.

I think all philosophers of consequence have had a painful condition of some sort.
masoo From: masoo Date: September 18th, 2007 07:26 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I'm not sure this has always been true. There was a time, I'd argue, when "youth culture" represented a clear break from the past, most obviously in the post-WWII era. What marked the young at that time was precisely that the older generation did NOT understand the youth of the present, nor did they think they should understand them. They wanted to "stop the process of development," because it was alien to their perception of how the world worked.

When Baby Boomers got old, though, what you describe surely takes hold. Boomers reject the concept of growing up, so they believe they have a never-ending connection to youth culture. They think they're in tune with the present, but, as you note, they're really just processing the present through their recollections of being young. They want to be the ones to define youth culture, and they don't realize their vision of youth culture is almost entirely based in nostalgia. So they must "stop the process of development" by redefining it in terms which make it "more or less" just like what they experienced.

I'd say it was better in the olden days. I don't know that the generation gap was a good thing, but it's hardly an improvement when the aging boomers deny the existence of such a gap, cursing subsequent generations to replaying the past of their elders. My parents didn't "understand" my culture ... you could argue that was the point of the culture in the first place. I don't understand the culture of my kids, either, but I pretend that I do, and that's even worse, since it forces their culture into modes better suited to us than to them.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: September 18th, 2007 08:05 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I wholeheartedly agree. Part of the reason I picked the term "youth culture," aside from the fact that I'm reading some classics is Cultural Studies again, is that was thinking about what happens when youth are imagined to have a culture. My sense is that, while we now look back on the era of your own youth and discern a vibrant culture apart from the adult world, the adults of that era discerned only the absence of culture, that is, youth without culture.

Of course, there are other complications to consider, both in relation to my point and yours. The Youth Movement that led to the formation of various scouting associations at the turn of the last century was directed, in part, by adults who wished to realize an ideal conception of youthful activity. But they didn't think of youth as a period with its own culture in the Cultural Studies sense. I wonder whether the fact that American parents of your generation -- and, in some cases, mine, since my father was born in 1931 -- might have been the exception to the rule, where modern industrialized society is concerned, due to the double whammy of the Depression and World War II.
schencka From: schencka Date: September 20th, 2007 07:12 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
"The result is a loop bound to introduce distortion with each repetition."

Think of child soldiers, Dickensian/William Blakean English child laborers, and Depression-era youths, all of which can't really be thought of to have had "youth culture" of any kind, and it's pretty obvious that "youth culture" is an idealized remembrance by adults projected on the youths of the present, instead of any kind of a precise description.

Huzzah.
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