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Erikson, E.H. (1970). Reflections on the Dissent of Contemporary Youth. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 51:11-22.
    

(1970). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 51:11-22

Reflections on the Dissent of Contemporary Youth

Erik H. Erikson

I

It is not without diffidence that one undertakes to write yet one more paper on youth. The literature on contemporary 'unrest' is growing by the week, the day, the hour. Much of it reflects a profound unrest among adults—a traumatized state, in fact, which seeks catharsis in hurried attempts to reassert intellectual mastery over a shocking course of events. At this point only the promise of a systematic approach to some of the divergent phenomena of dissent justifies writing about them at all. My suggestions will emphasize the place and function of youth in the human life cycle in its historical relativity.

In writing for this Journal, one can take the assumption for granted that there is, there must be, a pervasive irrational involvement in any attempt on the part of adults to reorientate themselves in the face of youthful challenges. For youth, almost by definition, has a presence that defies theorizing. On the other hand, one may assume agreement that an historical self-critique of psychoanalysis must include an assessment of the role which the discovery of the unconscious is playing in the ideological tensions of our time. For if rebellious youth in the second part of this fast-moving century must manage and transcend the revolutionary changes of the first part, the dissemination of Freud's insights into unconscious motivation are now part of that burden. True, some young people can accept the new depth only by displaying it, sometimes passionately and often mockingly, on the very surface, as if the new generation had already faced up to all the inner dangers as well as the outer ones.

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