Is our time marked by the end of ages or instead by an age struggle? Both scenarios appear plausible, but not simultaneously. Yet, their apparent radical opposition hides the fact that they share one basic assumption: that there is a crisis of adulthood. This, the yardstick age, the superior age, which once guaranteed the solidity of the existential scale and facilitated intergenerational arbitration, this age is said to have faded, opening the door to age wars or to the disappearance of age altogether. By contrast, this paper will suggest that there is no such crisis and that what we are currently witnessing should rather be viewed as a reconfiguration of adulthood. Experience, responsibility, authenticity – these are the three pillars of the “new“ adulthood, perhaps stronger than ever.
Pierre-Henri Tavoillot is associate professor (maître de conférences) of philosophy at Paris-Sorbonne University (Paris IV) and the current director of the Collège de philosophie, founded in 1974, which organises public lectures on ethics and applied philosophy. He was a member of the French prime minister’s Council for the Analysis of Society between 2004 and 2013, and has engaged in numerous interdisciplinary endeavours. His numerous book publications include Le Crépuscule des Lumières (The Twilight of the Enlightenment, 1995), Qui doit gouverner? Une brève histoire de l’autorité (Who Should Govern? A Brief History of Authority, 2011); Les femmes sont des adultes comme les autres (Women Are Adults Like Everyone Else, 2011), and Petit almanach du sens de la vie (A Little Almanach on the Meaning of Life, 2013). His book Philosophie des âges de la vie (Philosophy of the Ages of Life, 2007), co-written with Eric Deschavanne, won the François Furet Prize.