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Neoliberalism and the Unfolding Patterns of Young People’s Political Engagement and Political Participation in Contemporary Britain

James Hart () and Matt Henn ()
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James Hart: Department of Politics and International Relations, School of Social Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham NG1 4FQ, UK
Matt Henn: Department of Politics and International Relations, School of Social Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham NG1 4FQ, UK

Societies, 2017, vol. 7, issue 4, 1-19

Abstract: Recent trends suggest that young people in Britain are increasingly rejecting electoral politics. However, evidence suggests that British youth are not apolitical, but are becoming ever more sceptical of the ability of electoral politics to make a meaningful contribution to their lives. Why young people are adopting new political behaviour and values, however, is still a point of contention. Some authors have suggested that neoliberalism has influenced these new patterns of political engagement. This article will advance this critique of neoliberalism, giving attention to three different facets of neoliberalism and demonstrate how they combine to reduce young people’s expectations of political participation and their perceptions of the legitimacy of political actors. We combine ideational and material critiques to demonstrate how young people’s political engagement has been restricted by neoliberalism. Neoliberalism has influenced youth political participation through its critiques of collective democracy, by the subsequent transformations in political practice that it has contributed to, and through the economic marginalisation that has resulted from its shaping of governments’ monetary policy. This approach will be conceptually predicated on a definition of neoliberalism which acknowledges both its focus on reducing interventions in the economy, and also its productive capacity to modify society to construct market relations and galvanise competition amongst agents. From this definition, we develop the argument that neoliberal critiques of democracy, the subsequent changes in political practices which respond to these criticisms and the transformation in socioeconomic conditions caused by neoliberalism have coalesced to negatively influence young people’s electoral participation.

Keywords: young people; political participation; neoliberalism; democracy (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: A13 A14 P P0 P1 P2 P3 P4 P5 Z1 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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