Young people, youth work and social justice: a participatory parity perspective
This thesis explores issues of social injustice impacting on a sample group of young people living in a Scottish community and critically examines their experiences on the periphery of the labour market. Existing research evidence has highlighted myriad issues impacting on young people as they struggle to make the transition to adulthood. Young people in the UK have been particularly impacted by the economic turbulence of recent years with stagnating wages, higher rates of unemployment compared to older age groups, an increase in precarious employment and a gradual erosion of welfare entitlement. Allied to this, unemployed youth continue to be disparaged in popular discourse, labelled amongst other things as feckless and idle. As a consequence, there is evidence that young people on the margins of society are disengaging from formal politics, feeling alienated from an arena that they also see as disconnected from their everyday lives. This thesis uses the framework of social justice as conceived by Nancy Fraser to critically analyse perceived injustices affecting the lives of young people. These issues manifest across all three spheres of injustice as identified by Fraser; the economic, the cultural and the political spheres of social life - what she calls the domains of redistribution, recognition and representation, respectively. The findings of my research study confirms that Fraser’s framework not only allows us to bring together the multiple injustices impacting on these young people’s lives, but helps to reveal the ways in which they overlap and interpenetrate, reinforcing marginalisation. Fraser’s framework is also utilised as a lens through which to analyse and understand the context within which practitioners working with the young people are operating. As many writers in the area of youth work argue, it is an ethical requirement that the practice supports young people towards addressing any injustices impacting on their lives. This study finds that the ability of practitioners to respond to the issues of injustice in the lives of the young people is compromised by a performative landscape centred on meeting pre-ordained targets and outcomes.