Dissertation Abstracts

Precarious choices – the influence of young people’s experience of Precarity on abstention from elections

Author: Jakob Hartl, jakob.hartl@bristol.ac.uk
Department: School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
University: University of Bristol, United Kingdom
Supervisor: Will Atkinson, Paula Surridge
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: social inequality , political participation , youth , precarity
Areas of Research: Political Sociology , Youth , Stratification


Why do young people abstain from elections? By exploring, further developing, and empirically applying the concept of Precarity, this thesis addresses the aforementioned research question. Precarity is revisited with a phenomenological approach, based on Judith Butler and Pierre Bourdieu. This new concept links the societal mitigation of precariousness (Butler) to the endowment with different capitals (Bourdieu) and identifies the temporal aspect of insecurity as key to a sociological and empirical application of Butler’s notion of Precarity. With this theoretical approach the thesis overcomes the common orientation of Precarity on employment and makes the concept applicable also for groups outside the labour force. Both Bourdieu and Butler leave no doubt about the political relevance of Precarity: for Bourdieu, précarité is inherently political, since the existential insecurity leads to a political paralysis while Butler explores Precarity as instrument of power and domination. Thus, the thesis examines young people’s experiences of precariousness as becoming deprived of wider time horizons and subject to education-work-regimes. The socially mitigated degree of these experiences of precariousness, i.e. Precarity, significantly affects the likeliness to become politically apathetic or alienated. The empirical efficacy of the concept is tested using the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE) 2004-2010 and is based on a variety of methods like Latent Transition Analysis and Multiple Correspondence Analysis. Exploring Precarity both as changing and recurrent experience, the thesis explores how, over the course of seven years (age 13/14 to 19/20), young people’s experiences of precariousness solidify into states of Precarity. Finally, these states of Precarity are expected to affect abstentions from voting in the General Election 2010 for reasons of political alienation, i.e. distrust in and detachment from (processes of) representative liberal democracy.

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