‘Rejuvenating Politics? Youth, Citizenship and Politics in the United States and Europe’

26 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2011

See all articles by James Sloam

James Sloam

University of London - Royal Holloway College

Date Written: August 16, 2011


Declining participation in conventional forms of politics has become a central theme for academics and policy-makers, and has often been viewed as marking a crisis in citizenship. It has been highlighted by falling voter turnout and the dramatic decline (and ageing) of political party memberships – trends which are particularly marked amongst younger citizens. Yet there is overwhelming evidence to show that young people are not politically apathetic. They have their own views and engage in democratic politics in a wide variety of ways appropriate to their own understandings of democracy and citizenship (developed within diverse political and socio-economic contexts). A few previous studies have examined the changing nature of politics and citizenship for young people across countries and identified a number of common trends. The following paper compares and contrasts youth, citizenship and politics both within and between the United States, Britain and Germany. The first section explores young people’s changing civic and political engagement. The paper then proceeds to investigate the evolving socio-economics contexts of young people’s lives, and the impact they have on participation. The paper finally turns to the relationship between young citizens and the state, examining changing conceptions of citizenship. The core argument is that the newer forms of civic engagement practiced by young people are highly structured in favor of (highly-educated and well-off) ‘expert citizens’; and, that young people as a group have been increasingly been marginalized from the process of electoral politics. However, the different experiences of younger cohorts in the United States, Britain and Germany, gives us a clearer idea of how these problems might be overcome.

Suggested Citation

Sloam, James, ‘Rejuvenating Politics? Youth, Citizenship and Politics in the United States and Europe’ (August 16, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1910527 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1910527

James Sloam (Contact Author)

University of London - Royal Holloway College ( email )

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