In 1960, Paul Goodman—social thinker, activist, poet, and novelist—published his groundbreaking book Growing Up Absurd. An examination of youth disaffection in our affluent but spiritually empty society, Goodman’s work inspired and galvanized a burgeoning generation of sixties students and intellectuals. Forty years later, though his influence is felt throughout our culture, his books are mostly out of print, and his name is all but forgotten by those under the age of forty-five. Goodman wrote some of his most provocative and far-sighted essays for Dissent, including one co-authored with his brother, Percival, in which he called for the banning of all cars in Manhattan. It was reprinted in a collection called Utopian Essays and Practical Proposals. This spring, Dissent and JSL Films, creator of the upcoming documentary Paul Goodman Changed My Life, sponsored an essay contest in which people under thirty were asked to name the most pressing social and political issue of our times and write a utopian essay that included practical proposals. More than eight hundred young people responded with essays. Judges for the contest were Casey Nelson Blake, Dick Flacks, and Deborah Meier.
We are pleased to print here the essay of the winner, Michael J. Brown, along with essays by the judges, all of whom were influenced by Goodman. Essays by the two runners-up, John W. Connelly and Cameron J. Quinn, are also included in the online edition.