Mixed messages: Youth participation and democratic practice

Bessant, J 2004, 'Mixed messages: Youth participation and democratic practice', Australian Journal of Political Science, vol. 39, no. 2, pp. 387-404.


Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

Title Mixed messages: Youth participation and democratic practice
Author(s) Bessant, J
Year 2004
Journal name Australian Journal of Political Science
Volume number 39
Issue number 2
Start page 387
End page 404
Total pages 18
Publisher Carfax Publishing
Abstract The article begins by observing that, over the last decade, the idea of youth participation has once more become a popular part of contemporary political talk both in Australia and in many Western societies. Indeed most Western governments now advocate enhanced youth participation as part of a discourse about modern citizenship, so much so that it has become a policy cliche to say 'increased youth participation' will 'empower' young people, help build community and remedy a range of social problems. It is also noted that, if the idea of participation itself is an old idea central to the liberal democratic tradition, the current 'rediscovery' of youth participation is arguably part of that political orthodoxy. Drawing on selected State, national and Commonwealth government youth documents, the question is asked whether the official enthusiasm for youth participation has much to do with democratic practice. It is argued that the recent government enthusiasm for youth participation is problematic for three reasons. First, it fails to recognise the significant obstacles that young people currently experience when trying to participate socially, economically and politically. Second, there is a failure to think through what democratic practice requires. Third, both the conceptualisation and operationalisation of official youth participation policies reveal an agenda that is seriously at odds with the rhetoric of democratic participation. This raises questions about whose voice is actually being heard and to what effect. A litmus test of any government, however it may describe itself, is its treatment of children.
Subject Citizenship
DOI - identifier 10.1080/1036114042000238573
Copyright notice © 2004 Australasian Political Studies Association
ISSN 1036-1146
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