On 15-17 May 2013 UCSIA organized the academic workshop "Youth and Civic Participation: Is a Younger Generation Reshaping European Politics?" and is part of a series of four workshops in 2013 that UCSIA further dedicates to "youth 2.0", "value transfer and education" and "youth (sub)cultures". This workshop wanted to investigate how a young generation of citizens tries to make sense of current social trends and problems. Whereas some researchers are convinced of the apparent civic disengagement of youth, others suggest that civic participation of young people is stable and that they may still be open to non institutionalized forms of practicing politics.
Current research in youth civic and political engagement attempts to answer the question whether it is declining or shifting, but provides no clear-cut answers. While B. Klandermans emphasizes the emerging protest movements amongst the young, M. Elchardus considers this shift-hypothesis to be a neo-liberal de-construction of politics with the aim of destroying the potential of collective action and reducing citizenship to a form of consumerism. In his contribution M. Hooghe points to intergenerational continuity of values that determine institutional political engagement, while recognizing the change and creativity that characterize non-institutional politics. The difficulties of theory-building concerning youth civic engagement indicate that the paradigm used, “decline or shift”, may not be productive and that we have to move beyond it. The workshop highlighted the insufficiencies of the current paradigm, while at the same time attempting to look how to move beyond it.
Flanagan's contribution analysed the educational process that may promote youth civic engagement: she emphasizes free spaces in which community building may be practiced and exercised. She highlighted the fact that research on “youth civic engagement” will be conditioned by the understanding we have of “civic engagement”: community building? involvement in political “structures” so as to change existing societies? critical participation in sub-political movements in an attempt to deconstruct standard politics that disillusion people? how to move from political interest to political efficiency? etc. A variety of “grammars of action” (T. O’Toole) are possible. Maybe the current impasse in research requires a renewed reflection on the meaning of “civic and political engagement” and on the interaction of its various components. Issues as individualism and consumerism, that reflect existing societal values, may have to be questioned with regard to how they affect the practice of politics. This indicates the need for a philosophical reflection on politics and the diversity of practices that constitute it at various levels, which may take its point of departure in the questions: how to educate the young into assuming civic and political responsibility? what is the complex web of practices and convictions in which young people are called to situate themselves (not answering these questions is already an answer, as politics in the sense of practices necessary to build communities and societies is inevitable)?