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The Prime of Life

The Prime of Life

A History of Modern Adulthood

Steven Mintz

ISBN 9780674047679

Publication date: 04/07/2015

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Adulthood today is undergoing profound transformations. Men and women wait until their thirties to marry, have children, and establish full-time careers, occupying a prolonged period in which they are no longer adolescents but still lack the traditional emblems of adult identity. People at midlife struggle to sustain relationships with friends and partners, to find employment and fulfilling careers, to raise their children successfully, and to resist the aging process.

The Prime of Life puts today’s challenges into new perspective by exploring how past generations navigated the passage to maturity, achieved intimacy and connection, raised children, sought meaning in work, and responded to loss. Coming of age has never been easy or predictable, Steven Mintz shows, and the process has always been shaped by gender and class. But whereas adulthood once meant culturally-prescribed roles and relationships, the social and economic convulsions of the last sixty years have transformed it fundamentally, tearing up these shared scripts and leaving adults to fashion meaning and coherence in an increasingly individualistic culture.

Mintz reconstructs the emotional interior of a life stage too often relegated to self-help books and domestic melodramas. Emphasizing adulthood’s joys and fulfillments as well as its frustrations and regrets, he shows how cultural and historical circumstances have consistently reshaped what it means to be a grown up in contemporary society. The Prime of Life urges us to confront adulthood’s realities with candor and determination and to value and embrace the responsibility, sensible judgment, wisdom, and compassionate understanding it can bring.

Praise

  • We live in an age of generational turmoil. Baby-boom parents are accused of clinging on to jobs and houses which they should be freeing up for their children. Twentysomethings who can’t afford to leave home and can’t get jobs are attacked as aimless and immature. Both sides of the generational divide should take comfort from this timely, thoughtful work by Steven Mintz…Mintz argues for a new understanding of adulthood…It is a great book, and a triumph of historical writing; it shows that the past really can explain the present.

    —Jane Ridley, The Spectator

Author

  • Steven Mintz is Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin and Executive Director of the University of Texas System’s Institute for Transformational Learning.

Book Details

  • 432 pages
  • 1-3/8 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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