Youth Work in the Context of a Global Sociology of Youth
Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 8:30 AM
This paper explores how modern youth work has arisen through the social construction of "youth" as a delineated category of adults through a range of key processes. The youth category is created through the exclusion of this group of [biological] adults from the workforce and their incarceration in age-streamed cohorts in educational institutions. This is systemically supported by a scientific discourse of adolescence that resides clearly within a deficit paradigm with a wide range of associated cultural artifacts to disempower young people. The elimination of relationships with older adults and the exclusion of young people from economic life feeds and maintains youth cultures while simultaneously marking young people out for prejudicial and discriminatory treatment. The resulting economic dependency in young people, their incoherent social role, the emergence of distinct youth cultures and the generation gap provides the ground for disproportionate public fear rooted in young peoples' "otherness", and the “social problem” of youth is created and maintained.
This leads to simultaneous and contradictory pressures for the control and containment of young people and for their social and economic participation and agency. This occurs in a social context already riven by class and other contradictions, the technological and industrial transitions involved in the collapse of 'heavy' modernity and the emergence of more 'liquid' forms, and by globalization, including global modernisation and the globalisation of capital. Youth work emerges in the flux of those contradictions. The paper explores the responsibility for youth workers to partner with young people to manage and challenge the conditions of their disenfranchisement and to find compensatory processes which facilitate young people's renewed agency.