What Was the Child?


From The New Inquiry: An interview with Paul Rekret, author of Down With Childhood, about the ways our changing public understanding of childhood serves specific purposes in our society, and how these concepts are breaking down.

“This is the central argument I want to make: If childhood as we know it emerges where children are segregated from waged work and are imbued with all these emotional qualities I’ve been talking about, then the current epoch of capitalism’s crisis seems to imply a deep crisis for the ideal of childhood too. Not only are work and play increasingly difficult to distinguish today, but the markers of childhood and adulthood are increasingly mixed up. Permanent employment, perhaps the ultimate marker of adulthood, grows increasingly unattainable for greater and greater portions of the population. Meanwhile, we’re asked to keep learning and ‘growing’ throughout the period of our increasingly precarious attachment to work. It seems that as the capitalist wage relation undergoes fundamental mutations since the early 1980s, so too does the ideal of childhood become increasingly difficult to hold on to.”

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