The problem of social generations: a critique of the new emerging orthodoxy in youth studies

Alan Peter France, Steven Roberts

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Over the previous seven years the application of a social generation paradigm or ‘theory’ has gained increasing currency as a method in analysing young people's relationship with the life course. Whilst not a new concept or approach its resurgence and reconfiguration to ‘new’ times has seen some writers positioning it as a ‘new orthodoxy’ or ‘consensus’ within youth studies. In this it is seen as providing a conceptual framework that better helps us understand the complexity of circumstances and conditions that shape youth identities in late modern society. In this paper we examine and explore the underlying assumptions and claims that are made by those advocating the social generational paradigm, raising questions and seeking further clarification on a number of key themes. We accept youth studies needs to move beyond ‘old models’ that define and understand social context as a simply a tension between ‘structure or/and agency’ or as a ‘flavour’ to social action. To conclude therefore we propose the need to have an approach that is ecological and both accepts ‘social change’ and ‘continuity’ as critical parts of the life course, one that recognises the nature and influence of power and social reproduction, especially for different social classes, in shaping the experience of being young.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-230
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Youth Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

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