at The American Conservative:
more. I know this review jumps around a lot but that’s mostly because there’s a lot to say about this book and its approach, both positive and negative, and I tried to focus on what I thought I could usefully add to the discussion. Silva’s narrative has some weird parallels with Ross Douthat’s most recent book, which is a much more direct challenge to Christians. Maybe having Douthat on my mind was why I went all come-to-Jesus-no-literally at the end of this so-called book review….
Because most of the traditional pathways to adulthood—marriage, economic independence, stable job—seem out of reach or prove to be reversible, working-class young adults have developed a new definition of maturity. This new pathway relies heavily on therapeutic culture: You become an adult by overcoming the trauma of your past, whether that involved abusive parents, drug addiction, mental illness, or less flamboyant hardships. Young adults who take on this new definition focus on protecting the fragile self, and they reject solidarity and close, committed relationships in favor of individualistic, judgmental competition.
This is the basic thesis of Jennifer M. Silva’s insightful, frustrating new book, Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty. “At its core,” Silva writes, “this emerging working-class adult self is characterized by low expectations of work, wariness toward romantic commitment, widespread distrust of social institutions, profound isolation from others, and an overriding focus on their emotions and psychic health.”