The diverse logics of risk: young people's negotiations of the risk society
MetadataShow full item record
For the past five years I have worked with young people who had been labelled as “at risk”. I myself have entered into categories of “riskiness”, and I have often asked myself: how do young people perceive risk in contemporary society? This question forms the basis of this paper and from it stems other—no less important—questions about risk and young people. Youth are commonly posited as ‘at-risk’ in various literature, policy and legislation. This position of being ‘at-risk’ embeds young people into the risk society. Beck states that through the process of individualisation ‘people will be set free from the social forms of industrial society—class, stratification, family, gender status of men and women’ and that they will now have to choose their social identity (1992: 87 original italics). For Beck, this increase in choice is the primary cause of people’s anxiety and fear (1992: 87). Beck’s work focused on the ‘disappearance’ of inequality from government policy and the ‘agenda of daily life’ (Beck 1992: 92), yet this focus has actually served to perpetuate the shift away from inequality and structural concerns. For young people this movement away from structure has had many consequences, most notably the shift from ‘locally defined and enacted’ policy, to public policy focused on the ‘science of prevention’ (France 2008, p. 1) and the emergence of ‘at-risk’ youth identities; it individualises risk and makes youth and their families responsible for its effective management. This research highlights key differences in the perception of risk between young people involved in a youth advisory group and young people experiencing homelessness. The young people who formed the youth advisory group expressed the notion of risk in relation to their use of new technologies, such as the internet and mobile phones, and articulated the ‘risks’ they see present in their world. Those young people were specifically concerned with risks to their body: violence and disease. According to Beck (2006) ‘risk’ is a way of being in the world, but, I argue, this ‘being’ is different according to a person’s social class and the resources available to them. As such, Bourdieu’s concept of habitus can constitute an important addition to discourses about risk and the risk society, particularly for those in marginalised groups. Through a focus on habitus and the embeddedness of risk for young people we can better listen to, and respond to, the risks articulated by them and start to understand that the way young people perceive risk is dependent upon their habitus.
Australian Sociological Association 2009 Annual Conference
© The Author(s) 2009. The attached file is reproduced here with permission of the copyright owner(s) for your personal use only. No further distribution permitted. For information about this conference please refer to TASA website or contact the author(s).