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A Generation Divided? Realities of and Responses to Inequality and Injustices Among Contemporary Young People


Thu 27. 8.  09:00 - 10:30
room FCE D1122

The Debt and the Doubt. A Generational Perspective on Inequalities


Van de Velde, Cécile
University of Montreal, Canada

Are we witnessing the emergence of a new “generational” consciousness? As crisis affects in priority young people, this paper analyses how they perceive their own place within generational and social inequalities. It identifies to what extent they define themselves as a generation and with which arguments. This study is based on a large comparative inquiry in 5 cities (Montreal, Santiago de Chile, Madrid, Paris, Hong-Kong), mixing more than 120 in-depth interviews on young people from different social classes, statistics, observations of recent youth protests, and public debates. It shows that almost a century after Mannheim’s theory on “generational consciousness” as a marker of a “generation”, a feeling of belonging is actually emerging among young generations, but on a fragmented way and at an infra-generational level, especially among students and graduated people. The paper identifies two main “grammars” of generational inequalities: “debt” and “doubt”. These rhetorics are used very differently according to social contexts: the discourse of a burden of “debt” –financial and environmental– is more often used in liberal contexts, whereas the one of “doubt” -on governors and on future- is more frequent in central and southern Europe. The presentation will give an account of these contrasts in relation to the way welfare states, labour markets and demographic trends shape inter- and intra-generational inequalities since crisis. Biography: Cécile Van de Velde is currently Professor of Sociology at the University of Montreal. Her main research interests cover youth, life courses and generational inequalities in contemporary societies, with a comparative approach. Her first book « Becoming an Adult. Compared Sociology of Youth in Europe » (Presses Universitaires de France, 2008) compares transitions into adulthood in Denmark, Great Britain, France and Spain, mixing a longitudinal analysis of the Europanel data and 135 qualitative interviews. She received the « Le Monde » Award for Academic Research for her work. Her new research tackles the issue of generational relationships in a time of “crisis”, and the way inequalities and solidarity between generations play out in contemporary societies. On these topics, she recently co-directed the special issue “Rethinking inter-generational inequalities » (Revue Française de Sociologie, 2013) and signed the handbook « Sociology of Life Course » (Armand Colin, 2015). Her ongoing study analyses the new subjective tensions within young people’s lives, their diverse reactions to crisis, and the perceptions of generational inequalities, in America and Europe.