Youth policy and political youth: from objects to subjects?

Kari Paakkunainen & Juri Mykkänen (eds.)


Does young people’s ‘inclusion’ represent a liberating policy and a revival of social participation? Or is it a mechanism for taming and subjugation? How are young people steered towards conventional political participation, and how do their own ways of political justification evolve in conventional channels? Why are young athletes not considered suitable for politics? Why is social awareness still expected from artists in particular? Where are the athletes and artists who will challenge these conventional roles? How have young people in various European countries responded to the increasing uncertainty caused by financial crises since 2000? Do the regimes of European political culture still have explanatory power when it comes to the political reactions, organisation and alternative politics of the younger generation? Can the generation of young adults born in the 1980s and 1990s be defined in terms of generational experiences? What could these experiences be, and what do they indicate about this generation’s relationship with society? Are there signs of a new type of politicisation of young people? Are young people’s prevalent social movements essentially different from earlier alternative movements?

This book seeks to answer these questions theoretically, empirically and speculatively. The big picture of young people in Finland and other parts of Europe is ambiguous. Financial distress, competition, disappointment – as well as the pressure to gain experiences and to stand out – are real, anxiety-evoking and paralysing. Most young people are not touched or moved by social activism or even conventional politics. In addition to the harsh facts of life and a lack of future options, such conventionality and passiveness arise from adaptive youth policy, according to which life management and success can only be achieved by following familiar paths. On the other hand, there are young people who actively follow world events and are deeply aware of the political and social nature of their lives. Their activism is not limited to giving the middle finger to the power elite. Mediterranean young people in particular became active during the financial crisis of the early 2000s. According to some empirical observations, these active young people have ways of thinking and acting that are renewing institutional politics. However, there are also young people who find joy in alternative action even outside structured programmes.

Keywords: Europe, young people, youth culture, youth policy, political participation, political movements, politicisation, generational experiences, art, sport.