Growing Up Absurd: Problems of Youth in the Organized Society

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New York Review of Books
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5.09 X 8.0 X 0.63 inches | 0.69 pounds

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About the Author

Paul Goodman (1911-1972) was an American social critic, psychologist, poet, novelist, and anarchist. His writings appeared in Politics, Partisan Review, The New Republic, Commentary, The New Leader, Dissent, and The New York Review of Books. He published several well-regarded books in a variety of fields--including city planning, Gestalt therapy, literary criticism, and politics--before Growing Up Absurd, cancelled by its original publisher and turned down by a number of other presses, was brought out by Random House in 1960.

Casey Nelson Blake is Professor of History and American Studies at Columbia University and the author of several studies in American intellectual and cultural history. He writes regularly for Commonweal, Dissent, Raritan, and other publications.

Susan Sontag (1933-2004) was a novelist, playwright, filmmaker, and one of the most influential critics of her generation. Her books include Against Interpretation, On Photography, Illness as Metaphor, and The Volcano Lover.


"[Growing Up Absurd] is deeply concerned with the challenges of growing up in American society, using delinquent youth as a doorway into the reality that society was becoming, for most, a meaningless rat race...This is the kind of book that you'd see Don Draper pondering alone at the end of some episode of Mad Men. Yet, in many respects, the book truly does contain quite a bit that applies in 2023...A better sense of the social contract and more emphasis on vocation would be as much of an improvement now as ever." --Elizabeth Stice, Current

"Growing up Absurd by Paul Goodman... pretty much founded the modern passion for school reform." - Paul Berman

"Paul Goodman, a man deeply dissatisfied with things as they are, deserves more attention than other less-conscientious objectors....His book is a highly serious effort to understand the relation between society and the disaffected youngster." - John K. Galbraith, The New York Times

"Goodman might be called an intuitive sociologist in his unconventional, erratic yet convincing analysis of the encouragement toward human waste that our wasteful society provides. Growing Up Absurd is his cruelly apt phrase for this fatal lack of purpose and idealism. If [John] Updike's anxiety for his fellow man is subtle, Goodman's angry polemic leaves us no doubt what makes Rabbit run." - The Washington Post, 1960

"His impact is all around us." - Noam Chomsky

"Philosopher, poet, sociologist, pacifist, psychologist, writer, anarchist, open bisexual and spokesman for a generation. Paul Goodman ranked among the most influential thinkers in the latter half of the 20th century." - Ronnie Scheib, Variety

"[The film] "Paul Goodman Changed My Life" pays tribute to a man--poet teacher social critic, guru without portfolio--whose name was once a household word and whose books were talismans of intellectual seriousness and social concern. His current obscurity is something this documentary, directed by Jonathan Lee and including eloquent testimony from friends, family and admirers, is determined to overcome....His most famous book, Growing Up Absurd, originally commissioned as a study of juvenile delinquency and later a bible of the 1960s student rebellion, remains essential and troubling reading for anyone who cares about the problems of the young." - A.O. Scott, The New York Times, 10/19/11, from his review of the film "Paul Goodman Changed My Life"

"Mr. Goodman is terrifying. Utopians usually are when we take them (or they take themselves) seriously. And Goodman is all the more terrifying because he is a rational Utopian who has most of analytical apparatus and theoretical formulations of modern sociology, psychology, historiography and aesthetics at his finger tips." - Webster Scott, The Nation

"The best analysis I have seen of the spiritual emptiness of our technological paradise." - Sir Herbert Read

"Paul Goodman's Growing Up Absurd is an extraordinary good and important book--the best book I know on the subject of youth....Goodman's is a serious, profound and old-fashionedly moral book. With great originality and lucidity, he argues that the Organization Man, the beat and the juvenile delinquent are merely reactions to the same basic problem...." - Kenneth Keniston, The American Scholar