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Youth participation in Europe

Youth participation in Europe: Beyond discourses, practices and realities

Patricia Loncle
Morena Cuconato
Virginie Muniglia
Andreas Walther
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  • Book Info
    Youth participation in Europe
    Book Description:

    In a period where social unrest manifests itself by coinciding with young people's dissatisfaction with formal political involvement and the diversification of protest movements across the globe, the question of youth participation is at the forefront of democratic societies. This timely book offers a fresh look at youth participation: examining official and unofficial constructions of participation by young people in a range of socio-political domains, exploring the motivations and rationales underlying official attempts to increase participation among young people, and offering a critique of their effectiveness. Based on original research data, Youth participation in Europe provides a thorough analysis of participation initiatives at the implementation level and gives a transversal approach to various areas of youth participation. Drawing on examples from different European countries, it analyses the results of structure on youth participation and the effects of youth agencies on types of mobilisation.

    eISBN: 978-1-4473-0019-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. ONE The analysis of youth participation in contemporary literature: a European perspective
    (pp. 1-18)
    Virginie Muniglia, Morena Cuconato, Patricia Loncle and Andreas Walther

    Today in Europe, the participation of young people in the decisionmaking process appears crucial to public authorities for a number of reasons. The crisis of trust and confidence towards traditional forms of representation (as shown both by the growth of abstention but also by the change or even the disengagement from the classical forms of associative and union mobilisation), the growth of individualisation, the building of more varied and uncertain biographical trajectories, and the appearance of an unsettled and weakened sense of belonging to the national and local communities, are factors that encourage public authorities to rally specifically round the...

  2. Part One: Same word, same meaning?: Participating in a changing world

    • TWO Youth participation: strong discourses, weak policies – a general perspective
      (pp. 21-38)
      Patricia Loncle, Pat Leahy, Virginie Muniglia and Andreas Walther

      This statement from the general director of the direction of education and culture of the European Commission appears to belatedly recognise the progressive institutionalisation of a sector of youth policies at European level.¹

      Nevertheless, despite the many efforts of the European institutions to orientate in favour of youth policies, despite their attempts to designate priorities and to organise decisions in a comprehensive way, youth policies, at least in national arenas, seem to remain weak, fragmented and poorly funded. Our hypothesis is that a deep hiatus exists between the multiplicities of political discourses on youth on the one hand and the...

    • THREE Participation and individualisation: the emergence of a new (political) consciousness?
      (pp. 39-56)
      Reingard Spannring

      Over the past decades, the development of political participation in Western democracies has often been characterised by a decrease in traditional forms of mass participation and voter turnout which has given rise to widespread concern for the future of democracy. Putnam (2000), for example, observed that civic engagement among Americans was high and stable at the turn of the century and through the 1920s but began to dwindle with the generation born between the two world wars. This development picked up speed with the post-war generation, the ‘baby–boomers’. Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, continued the course of...

    • FOUR Informal education in an historical perspective: between an instrument of social education and a socioeducational practice
      (pp. 57-74)
      Filip Coussée and Tony Jeffs

      Youth workand other forms ofinformal educationhave consistently played a role within broader social and educational strategies. However the focus of youth work and other forms of informal education has not been a fixed entity. In the case of youth work, for example, the equilibrium has constantly shifted: now upon ‘the social question’, how to preserve social cohesion in a society; and then upon ‘the youth question’, how to support young people’s positive development.Participationis in both approaches a key concept. The social question refers to the necessary (re) distribution of resources in order to be able...

  3. Part Two: National and local policies for youth participation

    • FIVE Celebrating pluralism: beyond established forms of youth participation
      (pp. 77-92)
      Lasse Siurala and Heini Turkia

      The emergence of populist parties in Europe may be a result of the inability of the established parties to articulate the interests of citizens. This reflects a broader lack of trust between government institutions and civil society, an increasing dissatisfaction of citizens in representative politics, politicians, established parties and elections, and ‘the feeling of helplessness and impotence in relation to government’ (Chomsky, 2009). Young people, in particular, exhibit low voting turnout, feel disaffected from representative politics and politicians, and are distancing themselves from political youth organisations. Youth participation has been promoted as an effort to link the interests of young...

    • SIX Youth participation in the framework of the reformulation of local youth policies in italy
      (pp. 93-108)
      Morena Cuconato, Nicola De Luigi and Alessandro Martelli

      When focusing on concepts such asyouth,participationandlocal policiesin Italy, some key aspects need to be underlined in order to provide a common conceptual framework.

      Thefirstaspect relates to the problem of defining youth and the related expressions of ‘youth policies’ and ‘youth participation’. Italian literature has recently adopted the termyoung adultto denote people between the ages of 30 and 34; nevertheless a young adult can be female, male, student, professional, unemployed, single, married, a parent, live with parents and so forth¹ . At policy level the intrinsic differentiation characterising ‘planet youth’ is still...

    • SEVEN Barriers to participation within a recessionary state: impediments confronting irish youth
      (pp. 109-124)
      Pat Leahy and Paul Burgess

      This chapter explores the effects on young people’sparticipationin an Ireland engulfed by a major economic recession. It reviews the notion ofchangein relation to young people in Irish society and the status of young people, with a particularly critical focus on the emerging trend of portraying young people as ‘children’ in a policy context.

      Thereafter we explore the role theYouth Workas the ‘engine’ driving young people’s participation, before offering the reader a concluding section focused on the current relationship represented by the participation/youth/social change nexus in contemporary Ireland.

      The reader should bear in mind that...

    • EIGHT Youth participation and local social and youth policies in Spain
      (pp. 125-140)
      Lourdes Gaitán

      The form, range and depth of participation is related to the democratic pathway of each country, and also to the nature of social relations, culture, habits and social representations around childhood and youth that prevails in each country. The histories of various organisations that offer and deliver services and activities for children and youth lead us to the pre-democratic (1936–76) stage in Spain. The Franco dictatorship considered youth education a core element in which the values of ‘national spirit’ gained significance, and, as in other fascist regimes, this polity organised its own youth movement. This movement lost importance in...

  4. Part Three: Extending spaces of participation

    • NINE Interplay of youth culture, Web 2.0 and political participation in Europe: new reflections after the ‘youth quake’ in Northern Africa and the Middle East
      (pp. 143-158)
      Morena Cuconato and Natalia Waechter

      On the two shores of the Mediterranean Sea young people are actively engaged in creating or re-thinkingdemocracy. On the southern shore they are risking their lives fighting to achieve it for the first time. On the northern coast they are defending it as the government ignores democratic rules, placing both freedom and equality in jeopardy. Despite social, political and cultural differences, in both regions young people are using the same methods for communicating their unease, for organising protest and for mobilising themselves by utilising the Web 2.0 for acting out their vision of the world through youth culture.


    • TEN Young people and online civic participation: key findings from a pan-European research project
      (pp. 159-172)
      Shakuntala Banaji and David Buckingham

      Over the past two decades, there has been widespread concern across Europe and in many other industrialised countries about an apparent decline in civic and political participation. Commentators point to long-term reductions in voting rates, declining levels of trust in politicians and waning interest in civic affairs; and these phenomena are frequently seen as evidence of a broader crisis in democracy (e.g. Putnam,2000; Scheufele and Nisbet, 2002; Gibson et al, 2003; Galston, 2004). These issues are generally seen to be most apparent among the young:it is often asserted that young people are increasingly apathetic and reluctant to exercise their civic...

    • ELEVEN Young people and mental health: when ICT becomes a tool of participation in public health in Finland
      (pp. 173-186)
      Camilla Granholm

      Owing to increased use of information and communication technologies (ICT), concepts such as health, wellness and participation in life have gained a new and wider meaning. The Internet and mobile devices provide access to virtual opportunities for information seeking, realtime interaction, relationship building and collaborative involvement. This chapter supports research (Zimmerman, 1995; Christensen et al, 2011) suggesting that (community) participation has a positive effect on psychological empowerment. Psychological empowerment is defined as a mechanism that gives individuals greater mastery and control of their lives (Perkins and Zimmerman, 1995).

      Participation is defined as taking personal action in issues that concern one’s...

  5. Part Four: Participation and learning

    • TWELVE Learning to participate or participating to learn?
      (pp. 189-206)
      Andreas Walther

      Article 12 of the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) remains a key reference to initiatives, programmes and studies concerned with children’s and young people’s participation. However, it also contains one of the central constraints to child and youth participation;in order to participate children and young people are expected to acquire specific skills, competencies and knowledge. This corresponds with research into inequalities in youth participation in education as well as to policies aimed at reversing an apparent decline in youth participation by means of information and education; these policies and assumptions share implicit assumptions on...

    • THIRTEEN Pupils’ participation in French secondary schools: the interplay between tradition and innovation
      (pp. 207-224)
      Valérie Becquet

      The analysis of youth participation in France, whether directed towards political, associative or protest practices (Roudet, 2004; Becquet, 2009b; Muxel, 2010) or towards institutional programmes (Becquet, 2005a, 2006, Loncle, 2008) often leaves aside participation in schools. Yet school participation involves a wide range of young people: the pupils in secondary schools. These young people often combine in school participation with out-of-school participation, or move from one to the other (Becquet, 2005b; Guillaume and Verdon, 2007). Moreover, opportunities for participation have been developed in school since the 1990s, principally through the increase in pupils’ rights and in the number of pupils’...

  6. Part Five: Outlook and conclusions

    • FOURTEEN Participation or non-participation? Getting beyond dichotomies by applying an ideology-critical, a comparative and a biographical perspective
      (pp. 227-244)
      Andreas Walther

      A common thread connecting the contributions gathered in this volume relates to the observation that public as well as scientific discourses tend to measure young people’s political and social participation one-dimensionally and against the standards of formally institutionalised and acknowledged contents and forms of participation. Consequently, the assessment of youth participation tends to be reduced to a quantitative measure of ‘more’ or ‘less’ both in historical perspective and across different social and educational backgrounds; or to a qualitative distinction between ‘real’ and ‘false’ participation from both affirmative and critical viewpoints. Both perspectives imply a secure and shared knowledge that allows...

    • AFTERWORD Dynamic and socially embedded: biographies of participation in youth
      (pp. 245-254)
      Gill Jones

      This book has opened up the issue of participation in youth to explore what lies beneath the superficial discourse. It has examined official and unofficial constructions of participation by young people in a range of socio-political domains, explored the motivations and rationales underlying official attempts to increase participation among young people, and offered a critique of their effectiveness. This agenda was not undertaken in a vacuum. Political participation is a form of citizenship, a term which describes the complex relationship between the individual and formal society (the state): a relationship which changes not only over time but also over the...