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WRITES OF PASSAGE
on 6 May 2008
In 'England's Dreaming' Jon Savage explored the Britain of the 70s which gave birth to the Sex Pistols and Punk Rock in it's wider social, cultural and political context. In 'Teenage: The Creation of Youth - 1875-1945' Savage does the same thing but this time in respect to the emergence of youth culture in the first place.
Savage starts the book in his introduction by informing the reader that this is a 'prehistory of the teenager.' Inspired by Dick Hebdige's influential study 'Subculture-The Meaning of Style,' and by his own experience of the Punk scene in 70s London, Savage explains how he sought to discover the roots of what today we take for granted: namely the idea of adolescence as a seperate stage of life between childhood and adulthood, a specific cohort with loyalties to peer-group norms rather than those established by their parents and their parents culture.
Savage takes us on a tour which includes..... Fin De Siecle Paris, the waning power of Imperial Great Britain, the emerging militaristic power of Germany, juvenile delinquency, Rimbaud, Oscar Wilde, 'Hooligans,' The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, G. Stanley Hall, Boy Scouts, Ragtime, Nickelodeans, Dance Halls, World War 1, Secularism, Jazz, 20s Berlin, Prohibition, 'Flappers,' Valentino, Hollywood, the spread of secondary and tertiary education, Leopold and Loeb, Clara Bow, 'It Girls,' the Charleston, Harlem, Jimmy Cagney, the Nazi Youth, the Depression of the 30s, Zoot Suits, French Zazou's, World War 2..... and much, much more.
Savage shows us that it was in this period that, in essence, the 'teenager' was born and that it's emergence as a social, economic and cultural entity was tied symbiotically with the emergence of America as a truly global power and the spread of it's values across the Western world. In this period a new incipient age of mass consumerism was born and with it a new market to be tapped. Savage conveys the themes of this book in a way which is both informative and pleasurable to read. Highly recommended.