Dr. Boli finds this term so useful that he would like to apply it to the arts of civilization as well. Although a few anthropologists and whatnot have used the phrase “cultural neoteny” to describe various aspects of human behavior, they have used it sparingly and inconsistently. We may therefore regard the term as up for grabs.
Cultural neoteny, then, as Dr. Boli defines it, is the persistence of behaviors formerly considered juvenile into adult culture and discourse. It seems to Dr. Boli, who takes a longer view of cultural history than some people do, that the twentieth century was the century in which the culture of the United States, and to a lesser extent Western Europe, and perhaps to a greater extent Japan, refused to grow up.
This process has been gradual, and some of the steps have been bigger leaps than others. We might say it began right after the First World War, when the Flaming Youth of the 1920s began to dictate what was profitable in entertainment. There was a great leap forward in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when perhaps for the first time in history the repudiation of adulthood was adopted as a stated principle by a large part of a generation. To be fair to that generation, the Nixon administration was not a good advertisement for adulthood. But the process has continued since that time, and a wholesale juvenilization of culture has resulted.
We propose, therefore, to deal with the phenomenon by noting some of its manifestations in a series of occasional articles. Here are some of the topics we have in mind:
- Comic books and superhero movies consumed by adults
- The interrogative tone in declarative discourse
- The rise of the tragic backstory
- Big rims and other trends in automotive design
- The loss of honorifics and the abandonment of surnames
Why begin with this announcement, rather than just shove the first article out there? Well, for three reasons. First, Dr. Boli has not yet written the first article. Second, the term “cultural neoteny” is likely to require some explanation, at least if we wish to be understood. If we wish to publish an article in a sociological journal, it is probably all the better if we write complete gibberish, but Dr. Boli can manage only incomplete gibberish at best. Third, it gives our readers a chance to make suggestions. Have you noticed, among your adult acquaintances, any behaviors or tastes that you consider egregiously juvenile? This is your chance to document your observations and push back the frontiers of science.