712.1 Meanings of freedom for young people: Tensions between individual and collective life

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 12:30 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Amana MATTOS , Instituto de Psicologia, Professor at Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This paper discusses the meanings of freedom shared by young adults from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Beginning with a theoretical review on the concept of freedom in liberal theory, the work highlights the main contemporary conceptions of freedom. The concept of negative freedom and its individualizing consequences, especially related to intersubjective convivence, are examined in depth. This work proposes the proximity of the experience of freedom to the political field and suggests that politics must be defined by its dimensions of disagreement and struggle, and not as the permanent search for consensus, as liberal theory states. This analysis is based on Rancière's and Mouffe's scholarship and joins a larger discussion on the empirical material obtained through fieldwork. These results were originated in four focus groups with a total of 35 young adults, using the “groups of reflection” methodology. The young adults in the groups discussed freedom mainly in its negative sense, wherein one gains more freedom the less obstacles s/he faces.This understanding privileges the private dimension of action, and sets individuals in relations of competition and hostility among each other when they are being free. However, the research subjects pointed out problems and questions related to this meaning of freedom, such as the unending combative relationship with the other and the importance of obstacles so that free action ultimately makes sense for the acting subject. Young people’s economic and juridical dependence on adults, functioning as social practices of de-authorization of young adults' participation in society, were also emphasized by the subjects and likewise revealed the tensions that exist in relationships of youth with freedom. The results raise important points about the orientations of psychology and child and youth studies and offers fresh insights on the notion of freedom, an idea so strongly valued in contemporary society.