The revolt of the young

Whatever intergenerational contracts may have been in place – spoken or unspoken, real or perceived – are largely gone. The promise and hope of previous generations—in the Western world at least, the majority of young people around the world could never dream of such things to begin with—to lead a better life than their parents is a flickering image of the past.

But it’s not the lack of economic prosperity alone that infuriates young people. Not that it wouldn’t be reason enough: close to 90 million young people are unemployed, constituting about half of all unemployed people – and also roughly half of all young people interested in working. And that’s the average – in Syria, to quote but one example, the unemployed young people make up nearly 80% of the working-age unemployed population. The growing youth employment crisis, earmarked by these ballpark figures, has been largely ignored.

Add the unsustainability of the current growth-and-screw-the-environment-mantra and the massively rising social injustice to the colossal employment mess, and you get a highly explosive mix, which keeps bubbling to the surface on the streets across the planet. Young people have to watch how the world as we know it, its economic, social and political fabric, disintegrates, day by day. They don’t like the mélange of the cocktail of political, economic and social disfranchisement, and have begun to show their anger about being robbed of their own future with what Heribert Prantl calls “the sacred rage of the young.”

A youth revolt in the making

A global youth revolt in the making.

The exploding and imploding inequalities are one of the most impactful consequences of a well-known dilemma: what Zygmunt Bauman calls the tripod of economic, military and cultural sovereignities has long lost its stability. Economic globalisation and the deterritorialisation of capital and labour leave current political structures crumbling and humbled.

As Bauman puts it in his newest book “Collateral Damage. Social inequalities in a global age (2011)”:

“…the exclusive compound of growing social inequality and the rising volume of human suffering relegated to the status of ‘collaterality’ (marginality, externality, disposability, not a legitimate part of the political agenda) has all the markings of being potentially the most disastrous among the many problems humanity may be forced to confront, deal with and resolve in the current century.” (Bauman 2011:9)


Current events only seem to underline Bauman’s grim analysis: Continue reading