Beyond apathetic or activist youth: 'Ordinary' young people and contemporary forms of participation

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This article addresses the changing nature of participation for young people. Our analysis is framed by the fragmentation of traditional institutions and the increasingly unpredictable nature of life trajectories. As a result, the identification of a crisis in young people’s engagement has become a recurrent theme in the literature, alongside a burgeoning interest in new forms of (sub)cultural partici- patory practices. We argue that there is further complexity in the reshaping of participation in times of social change, especially for a broad ‘mainstream’ of young people who are neither deeply apathetic about politics nor unconventionally engaged. Drawing on a research project with 970 young Australians, the article suggests that many young people are disenchanted with political structures that are unresponsive to their needs and interests, but that they remain interested in social and political issues and continue to seek recognition from the political system. At the same time, their participatory practices are not oriented towards spectacular antistate activism or cultural politics but take the form of informal, individualized and everyday activities.


Anita Harris, Johanna Wyn, Salem Younes

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