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Youth as a seismograph for societal problems

[working paper]

Kurtenbach, Sabine

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Corporate Editor GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies - Leibniz-Institut für Globale und Regionale Studien
Abstract Over the course of the last two years, 2011 and 2012, youths around the world have protested in a variety of contexts and forms. More than the various manifestations of their protests – from political upheaval in Tunisia or Chile to violence in Syria – it is youths’ worries about their own place in society that unify them. Even in the most divergent societies, youth are perceived as a problem group, despite the fact that a consistent definition of what constitutes youth has been absent to date. To base such a definition exclusively on age would be misleading: other factors, for example, social position, would remain unconsidered. No longer children but not yet part of the circle of adults, youths find themselves both physically and socially in a phase of transition. For very different reasons, they rebel against established orders and authorities and question existing boundaries and conventions. However, even under very difficult political and economic conditions, youths only head onto the streets en masse when they see no prospects for the transition into adult life. The forms their protests take reveal fundamental societal processes and problems. Young people grow up with expectations about the transition into adult life that, because of rapid social change, can now scarcely be realized. The lifeworlds of youths and their problems with the entry into adult life are, despite all the differences, comparable worldwide. The mobilization of youths and the nature of their protests are closely connected with the socialization processes and types of cohesion within a society. Whether and how youth are able to complete central transitions into adult life can serve as an early warning indicator of key societal problems.
Keywords youth; adolescent; protest; lebenswelt; adolescence; participation; mobilization; protest movement; political change; conflict potential; social cohesion; propensity to violence
Classification Sociology of the Youth, Sociology of Childhood; Political Process, Elections, Political Sociology, Political Culture
Document language English
Publication Year 2013
City Hamburg
Page/Pages 8 p.
Series GIGA Focus International Edition, 1
ISSN 1862-3581
Status Published Version; not reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works