Preface by Paul Willis
This reader begins a conversation about the many aspects of critical youth studies. Chapters in this volume consider essential issues such as class, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, cultural capital, and schooling in creating a dialogue about and a conversation with youth. In a society that continues to devalue, demonize, and pathologize young women and men, leading names in the academy and youth communities argue that traditional studies of youth do not consider young people themselves. Engaging with today’s young adults in formal and informal pedagogical settings as an act of respect, social justice, and transgression creates a critical pedagogical path in which to establish a meaningful twenty-first century critical youth studies.
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After a generation in educational research besotted with neoliberalism, myopic positivism and self-limiting class practice improvement techniques, at last an international team addresses some of the grand questions again understood through the grain of subordinate experience and cultural form, undertaking theorizing conditioned by an understanding from below dominated positions and their everyday pressures. Big questions, critical perspectives, respect for micro experience, ah the relief! Social science needs generative not reductive theory: an element of radical indeterminacy is always necessary to our understanding of social process; there must always be space for subjective elements allowing felt degrees at least of agentive creativity and choice. Too often for grand theorists these latter were merely illusions to be ‘explained’ with exemplifications provided of what has already been decided should be there, no ‘surprises’. This book reminds and renews the theoretical appreciation of a few simple and open-ended generative mechanisms repeating over and over for different groups in wildly different places with different though not un-patterned outcomes.
I see more clearly than ever that I caught ‘the lads’ in England described in Learning to Labour perhaps in the last golden age of working class power, culture and organization in one ‘core’ location and that economic, social, race, nationality and sexual recompositions now sweep through the generations across the nations. I realize how parochial in many ways was my book, a product of its time; that there are quite other ways of ordering, picturing and imagining the giving of labor power, struggling with...
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