712.3 From egalitarianism to meritocracy: The spatial metamorphosis of social justice in youth transition to adulthood

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 1:00 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Hernan CUERVO , Youth Research Centre, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
Drawing on a qualitative study of two rural schools in Victoria, Australia, this paper seeks to understand the meaning of social justice for young people. The extensively documented disadvantages faced by rural schools and communities place the concept of social justice at the centre of any discussion. The structural challenges faced by young people coupled with a traditional communitarian ethos in rural places contribute to the display of egalitarian discourses and practices. However, in considering their post-school options students’ discourses of social justice changes within a context of greater uncertainty.  Young people and adult members of the communities are aware of the need for youth to migrate to gain further and higher qualifications to gain access to meaningful employment opportunities. In the scenario of youth out-migration to metropolitan and regional centres, students hold closely to notions of ‘self-reliance’ and ‘individual responsibility’ to confront a future of uncertainty. I argue that these individualised notions over-determine their agency to dictate their own future overlooking structural barriers, inadvertently making young people themselves solely responsible for their successes and failures. Moreover, egalitarian conceptualisations of social justice metamorphose to the principle of desert, where the concept of merit justifies and normalises unequal outcomes in youth transitions to adulthood.