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Coming Up ShortWorking-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty$
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Jennifer M. Silva

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199931460

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199931460.001.0001

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Inhabiting the Mood Economy

Inhabiting the Mood Economy

(p.112) 5 Inhabiting the Mood Economy
Coming Up Short

Jennifer M. Silva

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the emerging ways in which young people ascribe meaning, order, and progress onto their chaotic experiences of coming of age. In contrast to previous studies of working-class identity, here more than three-fourths of respondents embrace a model of therapeutic selfhood—that of an inwardly directed self preoccupied with its own psychic development. In their interactions with the state (rehabilitation homes, support groups, social workers and psychologists, foster care), the media (talk shows, Internet blogs, self-help books), or the medical field (hospitals, free drug trials), young people learn over and over again that happiness is theirs only if they work hard enough to control their negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors on their own. Through the concept of the mood economy, the chapter demonstrates that the therapeutic narrative allows working-class men and women to redefine competent adulthood in terms of overcoming a painful family past. However, it also transforms the self into one’s greatest obstacle to success, happiness, and well-being and leads young people to draw harsh boundaries against those who cannot will themselves to succeed.

Keywords:   therapeutic, emotion, inequality, symbolic boundaries, culture

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