Wellbeing and Prescription. Self-Realization and Social Recognition in a Sociological Perspective

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Evelyne BAILLERGEAU, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
This paper discusses youth wellbeing from the angle of how adolescents define the goals of their lives and of how they are told what is respectable in matter of a ‘good life’ to aim for. In the context of the knowledge economy, engaging in higher education and getting a university degree have been repeatedly been pushed forward as highly respectable aspirations. However, encouraging young people facing social inequality to engage in higher education has also been arguably criticized for being imposed upon them, at the expense of other understandings of a fulfilling life that may be more in line with young people’s aspirations. Yet, that alternative understandings of wellbeing – such as ‘self-realization’ – are not prescribed may seem doubtful in many ways. Is there any non-prescriptive understanding of a ‘good life’ that could be useful for the sociology of youth? To what extent can sociologists escape from top-down definitions of youth wellbeing? This paper questions the relevance and the limitations of social recognition as a pivotal concept for sociological research regarding desirable futures, drawing on a discussion of Sen’s holistic framing of wellbeing and Appadurai’s reflection on the ‘terms of recognition’ and building on qualitative observations amidst young people facing social inequality in the European context (chiefly in the Netherlands).