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About this book

This book provides insight into the diverse ways young people from around the world are regenerating politics in innovative and multifaceted ways. The authors, who include academics and activists, challenge claims that young people are apolitical, apathetic and living up to the ‘me generation’ stereotype. Contributions cover a rich body of case examples of traditional and new forms of youth politics in response to situated injustices and political and socio-economic crises. Significant and optimistic, the collection presents strong evidence from across the globe that these developments are not isolated incidences, but are in fact part of a systemic, large-scale transformation leading to a regeneration of the political landscape by young people. The book is aimed at students and scholars in the fields of politics, sociology, policy studies and youth and childhood studies.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Introduction

Young people around the globe are renewing politics by extending their repertoire of political action in response to various crises. This introduction to Young People Regenerating Politics in Times of Crisis starts by providing an account of the world in which young people grew up and live; one marked by financial, economic, political, democratic, constitutional and environmental crises. It then shows how many young people have been unfavourably affected by these crises. The introduction goes on to challenge negative narratives regarding young people and politics by arguing for a wider definition of political participation. Lastly, this introduction summarises the main features and findings of the 20 chapters, which all illustrate how from all over the world young people are participating actively in old and new forms of political actions locally, nationally and globally, and hence how young people are thus regenerating politics.
Sarah Pickard, Judith Bessant

Young People and Student Activism


Chapter 2. Young People and the #Hashtags That Broke the Rainbow Nation

University students in South Africa disenchanted with the lack of economic, racial and cultural transformation sparked country-wide protests in 2015 aimed at rejecting the Rainbow Nation motif that is often used to describe the country. This motif, turned societal narrative, has come to pacify youth activism. As a result, through #hashtag-driven movements, these students have engaged in a form of politics unseen in the country since the end of Apartheid. This chapter discusses how the global financial crisis of 2008 and its adverse effects on youth unemployment and inter-racial inequality created the rationale for emergence of three different social movements have changed youth politics in South Africa.
Rekgotsofetse Chikane

Chapter 3. Students Taking Action in Los Angeles Schools: An Ethnographic Case Study of Student Activism in the United States

It is not uncommon for police officers, or school resource officers, to permanently occupy space and authority within schools in the United States today. This chapter provides an ethnographic case study of the political activism of students who are challenging the criminalization of school discipline, and the militarization of school police, in public schools in Los Angeles, California. Over the last decade, student activism has been vigorous, and critical to reforming school policies and practices in Los Angeles public schools. Using data gathered from a year of participant observations, the chapter illustrates the political actions of students, and their successful efforts for policy reform in their schools.
Analicia Mejia Mesinas

Chapter 4. ‘Professional Students Do Not Play Politics’: How Kenyan Students Professionalise Environmental Activism and Produce Neoliberal Subjectivities

This chapter elucidates the ways contemporary Kenyan university students engage in environmentalism in a context shaped by socio-economic, political, and environmental crises. Student environmental activism, a new kind of politics, is contrasted with the history of Kenyan student politics dating back to the 1970s when students responded to national issues often involving protests organised through Student Unions. It examines how some students disengage from traditional student politics, while simultaneously generating new ways of responding to situated injustices such as environmental degradation and unemployment. By interrogating what politics means for such students in the context of neoliberal policies, the chapter challenges and critiques claims that Kenyan student environmentalists are non-political and demonstrate how their actions promote change without significantly challenging the very neoliberal context generating the social problems they seek to address.
Grace Muthoni Mwaura

Chapter 5. The ‘Good,’ the ‘Bad’ and the ‘Useless’: Young People’s Political Action Repertoires in Quebec

Claims that young people today lack interest in politics are based on conventional definitions of politics and traditional measures of democratic participation, such as voting. However other empirical work shows that many young people are increasingly politically active, but in less institutionalised ways. Using a definition of the political that is more inclusive as it encompasses what many young people themselves consider political, and drawing primarily on 20 in-depth qualitative interviews with young activists in Quebec, this chapter provides a relational framework to distinguish among the variety of forms that young people’s political action may take. By analysing participants’ discourses about their political concerns and the types of actions undertaken, it distinguishes four political stances, which take into account the relationship to State authorities: associative participation, underground protest, politicized artwork, and personal lifestyle.
Nicole Gallant

Young People and Online Political Action


Chapter 6. The Crisis of Democracy in Hong Kong: Young People’s Online Politics and the Umbrella Movement

This chapter addresses the role of young people as pro-democracy activists who created the Umbrella Movement, in 2014, in the on-going crisis of democracy in Hong Kong. In particular, it highlights their use of online sites like Hong Kong Golden and 4chan. The chapter briefly outlines the way mainstream political science has dealt poorly with young people’s politics, and the way it has dealt with online activism. The chapter argues that what we see in the Umbrella Movement is a mix of new and old forms of democratic politics which segues into civil disobedience. Framing Hong Kong Golden and 4chan as political requires a reframing of how we think about the political and about how young people now engage in the political.
Rob Watts

Chapter 7. Momentum and the Movementist ‘Corbynistas’: Young People Regenerating the Labour Party in Britain

Momentum and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in Britain have been the political awakening of many young people and have provided a political community for young movementists. At the same time, young people have been the driving force behind Momentum through their energy and enthusiasm for this grassroots organisation founded in 2015. This chapter explores the roles played by Momentum in the regeneration of interest in traditional politics among many young people and the roles young activists in Momentum have played in regenerating the Labour Party. It shows how young people have used their political agency, especially through social media to campaign within Momentum that operates like a horizontal social movement network. The chapter also addresses extremism and entryism in Momentum, as well as resulting changes in governance and organisation.
Sarah Pickard

Chapter 8. Right-Wing Populism and Young ‘Stormers’: Conflict in Democratic Politics

This chapter highlights the diversity of young people’s politics by providing a case study of ultra-right populism. Attention is given to the ways digital media is used to recruit, to persuade and to mobilise. Consideration is also given to what attracts so many young people to ultra-right populist groups. It is argued that while their themes and arguments are abhorrent, many young people are attracted for political and moral-emotional reasons that are commonly shared within the broader community. Political emotions and ethical impulses like outrage, hope, hatred, fear, patriotism, and righteous anger which are so often central in motivating political activity. Finally, given the rising popularity of ultra-right politics among young people, it is argued that urgent attention is needed to engage better with the politics of the kind examined here.
Judith Bessant

Chapter 9. ‘How Not to Be a Terrorist’: Radicalisation and Young Western Muslims’ Digital Discourses

The threat of terrorism has resulted in a growing sense of crisis in Western countries. Problematically, policies and practices intended to combat these perceived dangers result in the harassment, isolation, victimisation and invasive surveillance of ‘suspect communities.’ Consequently, young Muslims are invariably labelled as being at greatest risk of radicalisation and becoming violent extremist. This chapter explores the harmful practices of anti-radicalisation strategies and the online response of young Muslims in Western democracies. Key to understanding this situation is recognising the semantic drift of the concept of ‘radicalisation’ and its operationalisation through flawed indicators. In conclusion, it is argued that young Muslims online use humour as a powerful political tool, engendering resistance through satirically attacking racist truth claims, while nurturing a shared sense of identity.
Andrew Hope, Julie Matthews

Chapter 10. Young People’s Political Participation in Europe in Times of Crisis

Young people today are often seen as disaffected and indifferent towards politics and the political process. This chapter presents comparative evidence on young people’s political participation during the economic crisis based on survey data from across Europe collected in 2015 to analyse patterns of youth participation. Results presented show that while young people are less engaged than older citizens via conventional means, they are engaged in politics through more confrontational modes of unconventional politics and online activism. While the more confrontational modes of politics tend to only be practiced by small proportions of presumably committed young people, online ‘clicktivism’ is more widespread, so youth regeneration of politics is likely to come through social media and other forms of technological advances for the practice of political engagement.
Maria Grasso

Young People, Collective Identity and Community Building


Chapter 11. The Gezi Resistance of Turkey as Young People’s Counter-Conduct

This chapter examines the Gezi Resistance as a counter-conduct led by young people in Turkey. It demonstrates that young protesters counteract the promotion of consumerist lifestyles, conservative and family-based social policies, and the silencing of the media by the ruling JDP party. Furthermore, it argues that young people invent and perform a particular political subjectivity known as “the Gezi Spirit” that give priority to openness, inclusiveness, autonomy and freedom over consumerism, conservatism and authoritarianism. By doing this, young protesters transform the image of youth depicted as individualist, consumerist and cynical subjects.
Nilay Çabuk Kaya, Haktan Ural

Chapter 12. Off the Radar Democracy: Young People’s Alternative Acts of Citizenship in Australia

Compared to many other countries, Australia’s young population was shielded from the worst effects of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Perhaps as a result, recent youth protests and unrest witnessed internationally have been less dramatic in Australia. Nevertheless, many young people in Australia are still serious about their citizenship. They continue to be engaged in politics, but they express this in ‘off the radar’ ways that are not captured by current measures or analyses. This chapter explores the growth of youth social enterprise and volunteering as alternative spaces for youth citizenship. It draws upon field research conducted by the authors to consider young people’s attitudes to power, influence and democratic change-making, as well as implications for conventional notions and practices of politics.
Lucas Walsh, Rosalyn Black

Chapter 13. (Re)Politicising Young People: From Scotland’s Indyref to Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement

In 2014, two independence movements involving young people emerged in two very different settings. In Scotland, the Referendum on Independence from the United Kingdom extended the franchise to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote for the very first time. In Hong Kong, the Umbrella Movement engaged young people in direct action to secure universal suffrage. Drawing on a wider study of young people and social change, this chapter explores the rise of nationalist politics and independence in times of crisis, highlighting similarities and differences in young people’s political participation in these two distinctive contexts.
Susan Batchelor, Alistair Fraser, Leona Li Ngai Ling, Lisa Whittaker

Chapter 14. New Forms of Solidarity and Young People: An Ethnography of Youth Participation in Italy

Drawing from the findings of the European project ‘Partispace,’ this chapter analyses three solidarity initiatives promoted by youth leftist groups in Bologna (Italy). Materials were collected through an ethnographic study that included in-depth interviews with young activists. This material highlights the connections between the initiatives of these groups, their objectives and practices, in the context of the global financial crisis. The analysis shows that these initiatives, while seeking to mitigate the problems faced by vulnerable groups (i.e. migrants, refugees and the homeless), were also fuelled by practices of self-help aimed at responding to the unheeded ‘generational needs’ of the young people themselves. The projects emerge as ‘laboratories of political resistance’ where strategies for collective action based on mutual help and self-empowerment are experimented with and enacted.
Nicola De Luigi, Alessandro Martelli, Ilaria Pitti

Chapter 15. Youth Heteropolitics in Crisis-Ridden Greece

This chapter enquires into alternative modes of self-organised youth political engagement in contemporary Greece. Many young people engage in hetero-politics, namely in practices of alternative community organisation in response to social dislocation, the failures and the pressures of the market and the state. They belong to a politicised generational unit, which develops a common heteropolitical habitus by way of participating in various alternative social and cultural sites, displaying a common political dynamic despite their differences. The social significance of young people’s hetero-politics is situated within the wider debate about young people’s politics in the crisis.
Alexandros Kioupkiolis, Yannis Pechtelidis

Young People and Protest as Politics


Chapter 16. Youth-Led Struggles Against Racialized Crime Control in the United States

Recent work in a number of disciplines has explored how social, economic and cultural shifts coinciding with neoliberalism have worked to depoliticize the subjectivities of young people. As a counterpoint to such claims, this chapter details the work of youth-led grassroots organizations in the United States that create counter-movements against the criminalization of school discipline, racialized policing and mass incarceration. Although their victories are often small in scale, the work of these organizations should not be overlooked, as they help to bring together young people to mobilize for criminal justice reform, thus introducing them to the world of politics and collective action.
Tim Goddard, Randolph R. Myers

Chapter 17. Youth Work, Agonistic Democracy and Transgressive Enjoyment in England

Concerns abound in media and political commentary regarding the purported political apathy of young people. This chapter shares the narratives of active engagement with politics on the part of a number of young people, as part of their efforts to resist the threats to youth services posed by the discourses and practices of neoliberal austerity. The analysis in the chapter links the young people’s engagement to the tenets of agonistic models of democracy, namely pluralism, contestation and tragedy. The chapter concludes with consideration of the implications of participants’ narrated experiences for the study of politics and political engagement in coming years.
Graham Bright, Carole Pugh, Matthew Clarke

Chapter 18. Political Participation and Activism in the Post-15m Era: Young People’s Political Identifications in Lleida, Catalonia

New spaces for political participation have emerged since the beginning of the Los Indignados 15M movement, in 2011. Drawing on an ethnographic inquiry into youth activism in Lleida (Catalonia), we identify and analyse new forms of political participation generated since 15M. This chapter examines youth activism in Lleida from the perspective of the dichotomy of the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ political practices. The authors focus on the discursive construction around the actors’ own accounts of what they call ‘new political activism,’ and consider how it differs from more conventional understandings of political participation. In this way, they analyse two post-15M movements, including their evolution and how the involvement of the young activists has changed them.
Eduard Ballesté Isern, José Sánchez García

Chapter 19. New Modes of Youth Political Action and Democracy in the Americas: From the Chilean Spring to the Maple Spring in Quebec

Through a comparative analysis of the Chilean and Quebecois cases of student protest in 2011 and 2012 (with references to Mexico), this chapter shows how young people in these countries succeeded in creating new oppositional public spaces, despite accusations of violence or political apathy that undermine their status as legitimate political subjects. Using innovative forms of political participation, students have not only been able to challenge their exclusion from the political scene, but also to achieve changes in the public culture. While these youth-led protest movements are often opposed to neoliberal austerity policies, their main impact was to challenge restricted forms of representative democracy, inventing new forms of political subjectivation based on a fundamental principle of democracy: isonomy, i.e. equality of political rights.
Ricardo Peñafiel, Marie-Christine Doran

Chapter 20. Youth Participation in Eastern Europe in the Age of Austerity

This chapter explores ways in which austerity policies have influenced patterns of youth political participation between the core and periphery of the European Union (EU), focusing on Eastern Europe. The varied impact of austerity across the EU is reflected in the finding that young people in the Eastern periphery tend to refrain from both conventional and unconventional modes of political participation. While aggravating socioeconomic conditions have resulted in the rise of unconventional political participation activities among young people in Southern Europe, the same has not been the case in Eastern Europe. On the contrary, our findings suggest a retreat from politics that cuts across the distinction between conventional and unconventional modes of political participation.
Marko Kovacic, Danijela Dolenec


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