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The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies by J. Michael Ryan, Daniel Thomas Cook

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Youth culture(s)

MURRAY MILNER JR.

University of Virginia, USA

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs243

Most civilizations have had awareness that individuals between puberty and marriage were distinct from those younger and older, and that they often formed a relatively distinctive subculture that was concerned about consumption and how it affected their status. Shakespeare's plays indicate this. Romeo and Juliet focuses on a group of young men – Romeo, Mercutio, Benvolio, and Tybalt – and their sense of honor, romantic concerns, and their conflicts. As You Like It opens with the young Orlando complaining about his allowance: “he keeps me rustically at home, or, to speak more properly, stays me here at home unkept; for call you that keeping for a gentleman of my birth, that differs not from the stalling of an ox?”

It is, however, in contemporary developed societies that notions of youth and youth cultures are now especially salient to consumption patterns. While notions of youth are clearly linked to the process of biological and psychological development, these factors explain only a modest amount of the variations in the way that young people act. While young people in the United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth century obviously went through puberty and psychological maturation, there were no “teenagers”; most people left school after the eighth grade, had jobs, and were often married within a few years.

In contrast, with more extended schooling people may spend more ...

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