GROWING Ur ABSURD, by Paul Goodman. Random House.
In the notices it has received thus far, Paul Goodman’s remarkable book, Growing Up Absurd, has not been done the decency of a summary. My main intention in this review is to provide, in virtually outline form, a statement of its contents; often, because of the profusion of thought and observation in the book, my outline will be at best a sampling.
At the outset Goodman, with a few abstract strokes, sketches an ideal picture of what the lives of young people should be like, how, in general, they should be growing up. In his words, their behavior ought to be expressive of “force, grace, discrimination, intellect and feeling.” Throughout the book, in an unfailing tone of urgency, with lively analyses and abundant examples, Goodman shows why our young often fall disastrously short of this ideal, how our society thwarts their capacities, and causes their increasing disaffection.
He begins with a “simple objective factor which is not much mentioned” —the lack of worthy jobs in our economy, worthy by the criteria of unquestionable utility, exercise of human potentialities, and honor. In this connection, the crucial question Goodman puts is: “What does it mean to grow up in the fact that during one’s productive years one will spend eight hours a day doing what is no good?” This question, though it is articulated only by a fraction of the young, must ...
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