The Politics of Modern Childhood: American Socialisation and the Crisis of Individualism

  • Jim Block


This chapter traces the rise of a distinctively modern child-rearing practice in the United States,1 and it is important to identify, at the outset, the historically unprecedented features of the American case, arising from its unique time and place in Western modernisation. This will enable us to consider its implications for the wider politics of childhood and for processes of modernisation more generally. Given the on-going globalisation of the world economy, the chapter suggests that forms of social attenuation and fluidity are being precipitated which recall the nineteenth century American experience. At the same time, the globalisation of culture beams ubiquitous presentations of American youth culture to the world. This process, a fast-forwarding of the evolution of American socialisation from its nineteenth century origins to its ‘logical’ conclusion in a distinct world of youth, in effect defines the contemporary role of childhood for many who lack an alternative scenario of child-rearing in the modernising process. This threatens, therefore, to make this more local ‘crisis of socialization’ a worldwide phenomenon (Barrett and McIntosh, 1991).


Free Society Liberal Society American Case American Socialisation Traditional Socialisation 
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© Palgrave Macmillan 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jim Block

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