Stories about the quest for the fountain of youth span centuries and cultures. It seems we have always wanted to stay young, but our current fascination with youth culture is more than just a desire to rediscover the magic of our early years.
Youth culture is an invention of modernity—it has not always been with us—and as such, it bears the weight of the cultural changes that have taken place throughout the modern era and are still taking place today. If we are trying to understand what it means to be human in the twenty-first century and what it means to be good in the world we live in, an examination of youth culture brings into relief many of the key struggles we face. The challenges and confusions of late modernity are present in full force in youth culture.
Further, we tend to see our lives through the lens of youth, whether because of the youth orientation of pop culture and advertising, the continuous flow of products and practices aimed at retaining or regaining a youthful appearance, or simply because we are engaged in the process of raising young people. Even retirement is being redescribed as a second youth. The radical and rapid transformations taking place in American and global culture are keenly seen when viewed through the lens of youth culture.