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Livia Jiménez Sedano Hopeless Youth

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Livia Jiménez Sedano Hopeless Youth
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  Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found athttp://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=recp20 Download by:  [ESA Secretariat] Date:  13 November 2016, At: 22:27 European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology ISSN: 2325-4823 (Print) 2325-4815 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/recp20 Hopeless Youth! Livia Jiménez Sedano To cite this article:  Livia Jiménez Sedano (2016) Hopeless Youth!, European Journal of Culturaland Political Sociology, 3:4, 502-506, DOI: 10.1080/23254823.2016.1181331 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23254823.2016.1181331 Published online: 29 Jul 2016.Submit your article to this journal Article views: 29View related articles View Crossmark data  Further research is required into the myths of the European project, and thisbook is a good start among a number of projects that have been paying attentionto the  ‘ meanings ’  of Europe. Looking at school textbooks, posters and comics asexemplars of instituting those views and, at the same time, the people of Europe asEuropeans (and anti-Europeans), makes up a useful and creative endeavour thatshould be continued. Bottici and Challand ’ s developed methodology works well.Moreover, it also makes visible how the past, memory and history are tangible,lived experiences with considerable effects.The view of traditional history offered by the authors may be accurate for con-servative viewpoints, but there are, of course, new and different ways of thinking (with) history. I used this volume as one of the recommended books on a History course at the University of Helsinki ’ s Memory, Identity, and Culture in Europe,where students from undergraduates to doctoral researchers read this and otherworks from the perspective of how to write history, how to understand whatEurope is, and how Europe has been imagined in history-writing. The empiricalchapters of   Imagining Europe: Myth, memory and identity   were very approach-able and interesting for all the students. However, the students, who camefrom Eastern Europe and Finland, did not really recognise themselves in themyths examined here. Rather it was the reflections, visualisations and methodsthey found interesting, when thinking of themselves as Europeans and as the sub- jects of history.Emilia Palonen Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki, Finland  emilia.palonen@helsinki. fi © 2016 Emilia Palonenhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23254823.2016.1235775 Hopeless Youth! edited by Francisco Martínez and Pille Runnel, Tartu,EstonianNationalMuseum,2015,544pp., € 19(paperback), ISBN978-9949-548-10-1 Hopeless Youth!   explores the great diversity of ways that youngsters are develop-ing in order to cope with the main features of late modernity: instability of thelabour market, greater exigence of mobility and rapid adaptation to changing conditions, increasing dismantling of social welfare and the progressive accelera-tion of social rhythms. The book addresses a central issue in current debates onrecent global social changes by analysing ways that the neoliberal agenda affectsyoung people ’ s lives. As some authors argue, this crisis is not confined to youth,but rather is magnified for them (Comaroff & Comaroff, 2001, p. 17). Through-out the pages of this kaleidoscopic book we can see young people resisting, trying to adapt, and/or reinventing themselves to make their lives meaningful in suchcircumstances. A wide variety of examples from many geographical settings 502 BOOK REVIEWS  and cultural practices provide the empirical basis for the main arguments pre-sented in the introduction by Francisco Martínez.In the first part, Bert van den Bergh invites us to think differently about theincreasing number of people diagnosed with depression in the last years: accord-ing to him,  ‘ depression ’  is more a logical way of psychological resistance to latemodernity  ’ s circumstances than a problem of adaptation to a functional socialworld. Francisco Martínez analyses the success of old-school photo-booths inBerlin as a way of escaping from an unbearably accelerated present through tra- velling to a reinvented past where control can be recovered. José Martínez givesanother example of escaping from acceleration by examining the trend of running away from the over-busy life of the city to live in a calm rural area. AlessandroTesta presents the culture of clubbing as a phenomenon that has exploded inthe last 15 years to escape from accelerated daily life and experience its structuralantithesis. Aliine Lotman describes how   ‘ dumpster divers ’  live on food left fromthe garbage of capitalist over-production, while dreaming of becoming indepen-dent from the system by living in self-organised farms. Simon Barker asserts thatbreakdancing has become a way of free expression for youngsters expelled fromthe system. Ott Kagovere explains how rap music and hip-hop culture are appro-priated by marginalised Russian  ‘ White Niggas ’  after the fall of the Soviet Union.Caterina Bonora covers the aspect of love relations in a period of instability.According to her, for people who travel a lot, live in uncertain circumstancesabout their future, and have a strong need for individual space and self-expression, distant relationships are somehow a good solution. Helen Kim, inher analysis of the London-Asian scene, proposes the concept of   ‘ strategic disso-nance ’  to characterise the political action of youngsters rather than  ‘ resistance ’ , acategory that she considers over-used. Ivan Bolologov reflects on the meaning of punk for youngsters in a concrete setting in Russia that he calls  ‘ the biggest villageon earth ’ . As he puts it, punk rock is not an urban phenomenon, but a way tobuild an urban lifestyle. It does not involve political claims  per se , but a socialclaim of the right to be different and to follow free individual ways of life.These are just a few examples of a long ethnographic  voyage  that is organisedin the following structure: an introduction, a series of   ‘ insights ’  (brief introducing chapters), chapters organised in thematic blocks, and a  ‘ post-scriptum ’  (threeshort final chapters on the exhibition at the Estonian National Museum thatinspired this book).One of the most relevant dimensions of the neoliberal agenda is the way inwhich youth has become a symbol of the new times: the slogan of   ‘ young dyna-mism and flexibility  ’  serves to hide the precarity and complicated circumstancesof instability, as well as the difficulties that involve learning technologies that areconstantly changing. As Francisco Martínez puts it, although youth is idealised asan abstract goal, flesh-and-blood youngsters are excluded from the productivesystem: they are  ‘ full of potential yet unneeded at the moment ’  (p. 16). In thisline of thought, Mirjana Ule exposes a theory of structural changes in youthdue to the introduction of neoliberal capitalism. She draws a historical line start-ing from the social construction of youth in the 1950s and 1960s, going throughthe creation of strong innovative youth cultures that experimented with new ways EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF CULTURAL AND POLITICAL SOCIOLOGY 503  of life between the 1960s and the 1980s, and coming finally to the fall of youthcultures with the advent of neoliberalism, from the 1990s until the present.According to Ule, what neoliberalism has brought is a new redistribution of power and resources so that young people are deprived of any security or stability.As hopeless youth, they are dependent on their families and elders. In the currentcontext, youth cultures have converted into  ‘ youth scenes ’  or meeting places forsharing consumption practices. Such  ‘ youth scenes ’  are no longer produced andmaintained by young people, but by marketers. The ideal of youth is crystallisedby becoming trendy consumers and flex workers. Working-class youngsters suchas the Londoners or pejoratively-termed  ‘ chavs ’  suffer a difficult situation, asdescribed in the chapter by Elias Le Grand. Because they spend their timesitting about and roaming around the neighbourhood, occupying public spacein an unproductive and non-consuming way, they come under suspicion.Borden, in his insight about skateboarding and urban youth in London, describesthis practice as an example of the idea that  ‘ everyone has a right to public spaceand be creative within it, that we should not have to pay for a coffee or buy some-thing for every moment we exist outside our homes ’  (p. 47). Nevertheless,Thomas Mader criticises the way that skateboarding has been commodified fora generation of youngsters with more spending money than previous ones. Hasyouth become passively apolitical or has political action acquired new ways of expression? Malcolm James asserts that the neo-Marxist and Black Studies per-spectives that claim youth has become apolitical in a neoliberal context are mis-taken. Such theories assert that before the eighties young people engaged incollective political struggle against injustice and racism, but since MargaretThatcher, individualism has replaced political action. On this view, with everyonelooking after his/her own individual interest, political cultures have becomeanother object of commodification and fashion. In other words, they have beenco-opted by capitalism and consumerism. The author counters this idea by pro-posing that what we usually label  ‘ anti-social ’  behaviour would be better analysedas  ‘ negative politics ’ .Nevertheless, new technologies are not only a difficult challenge for young people: they also serve as the new scenario of their social life. One of the mostinteresting chapters in this respect is the final one by Pille Runnel, whichdraws on the results of an experiment held with high-school students. She con-cludes that via smartphone connections, young people create a bubble of privacy in the midst of the public sphere. Transitions from online to offline com-prise part of their multi-layered experience of urban life. New technologies havealso become the main symbol of accelerated rhythms of everyday life. ValerioSimoni provides us with an interesting example of this phenomenon: Cuba as acrossroad for opposed strategies of running away from and searching for accelera-tion. Valerio starts by explaining that one of the attractions for visiting Cuba is theidea of seeing the country   ‘ stuck in time ’  before things change, as politicalrelations with the USA move quickly and the country begins to open to theworld. From this point of view, it seems rather attractive and exotic to visit asociety that is considered frozen in the 1950s. Out-dated technologies and oldcars provide tourists with the impression of travelling back in time. What is 504 BOOK REVIEWS  more interesting, as Valerio explains, is how new technologies have affected thesubjectivity of Cuban youngsters who are eager to show that they are capableof living an accelerated life. They invest their time and energy in becoming updated in the latest technologies (mobile phones, laptops and gadgets), andacquire them as soon as they can.All these political and economic structural changes threaten the existence of  ‘ youth ’  as a social group. What does it mean to be  ‘ young  ’  in such circumstances?When former rites of passage for entering adulthood have become practically impossible to access for most of the population, has youth disappeared as astage of life? Has it become a state of eternal liminality? Has it acquired new meanings? The authors of the book propose diverse answers to this new problem. Francisco Martínez makes the provocative statement in the introduc-tion:  ‘ Generational boundaries and threshold experiences are becoming blurred.Coming into age is less and less experienced as a learning passage and more as aprocess of obsolescence that has to be compensated ’  (p. 37). Some authors in this volume respond to this definitional challenge. For example, Aurélie Mary wonders whether difficulties in entering adulthood have made youth into aliminal period longer than ever or if there might be another way to interpretthese changes. She relies on fieldwork based on in-depth interviews withfemale university students aged 20 – 30 in France and Finland. Her conclusionis that contemporary youth has not become an everlasting liminal period, butrather that the meaning and ways of transition towards adulthood havechanged due to structural reasons that include the widespread impossibility of finding a stable job, becoming financially independent, getting married andhaving children. She states that the problem is that we are trying to understanda contemporary phenomenon with a theoretical framework that made sense inthe period after the Second World War. According to her, it is the concept of  ‘ adulthood ’  that is in a liminal state, and not young people themselves. For thisreason, this concept should be reinvented, recreated and reworked. ÁdámNagy, Levent Székely and Márta Barbarics claim that statistical categories suchas  ‘ youth ’  need to be revised too. According to them, traditional categories of definitive age groups do not coincide with the qualitative dimensions of maturity (defined as biological, psychological and social maturity). They overlap only par-tially, so that many groups do not fit neatly into any category. In conclusion, weneed to rework categories that have for a long time been taken for granted.Let us conclude this review with some critical thoughts on hopelessness andthe homogeneity of youth today. Even though most chapters in the book tell usabout hopeless people, there is still some light of hopefulness shining in someof the chapters. For example, the  ‘ dumpster divers ’  of Barcelona dream of autopic future in self-organised independent farms. The youngsters described inthe chapter by Elena Omelchenko and Ana Zhelnina (Russian Run, anarchistsand Nashi) express their hope in a better future they are fighting to build (eachgroup with different ideals and methods). Marcos Farias writes about currentyouth in Estelí, a Nicaraguan village in which the ideal of the Sandinista revolu-tion is still alive. Youngsters are oriented towards the goal of resurrecting therevolutionary spirit, even though the revolution itself defeated those who EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF CULTURAL AND POLITICAL SOCIOLOGY 505
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