Youth and citizenship in the 1990s : an ethnography of life in Westhill
This thesis examines the meanings and experiences of citizenship for a particular group of working class young people. By using an ethnographic methodology it identifies the different social processes that influence how they experience citizenship and how they perceive themselves as present and future citizens. Ideas proposed by T.H. Marshall have dominated post war discourses on citizenship, but these have failed to explain what it means to the young working class to be a citizen. The meaning of youth has historically and culturally undergone change. What it means to be young and working class is greatly influenced by factors such as, the cultural context of community life, the structural relationships of production and consumption, and the wider ideological meanings and policies of political movements such as those of the New Right. It is within this context that citizenship in the 1990s, as a way of life for the young working class,needs to be understood. Sites such as community, work, and leisure and consumption remain central to young people's experience of citizenship. It is in these sites where they gain support and status towards moving into the adult world. Yet changes, especially in work and leisure, are making life increasingly difficult for the young. Opportunities to undertake transitions into adulthood are being affected by the lack of opportunities for full employment, the growth of social divisions and increased generational conflict. These can then undermine young people's feelings of responsibility and obligations. Young women's experience and meanings of citizenship differ from those of young men. Expectations of others around sexuality and gender are influential in 'shaping' young women's choices and opportunities. Young working class women are clearly aware of this and attempt to develop strategies within relationships and the job market which help them resist the inevitability of the 'motherhood trap'. Young people's responses to their experiences of citizenship are to reject the system that claims to represent their interests, that of Parliamentary democracy. But this is not to say that the young are non political, as they construct and act upon their own 'political theories' of the world. It may also be the case that if a wider definition of the 'political' is constructed, then certain actions around 'resistance', 'defence' and 'survival' could also be deemed as possible political responses to their experiences of citizenship.