Gilleard, Christopher John; Higgs, Paul
UCL, United Kingdom
Within contemporary European society, old age occupies a complex position. As the success of economically securing later life is increasingly being realised in most EU countries, new concerns have emerged about the dangers posed by an increasingly aged population. These anxieties suggest that the aged have become a new kind of 'dangerous' class, threatening the future well-being of society by the sheer weight of their numbers and their demands. Drawing upon George Bataille's idea of an 'abject' class, this paper will explore how old age is represented as both a dangerous and as an abject class, feared less because of the potential power of their collective agency than because of the very lack of agency. The result is a fragmentation of later life between a third age characterised by economic self-sufficiency and access to multiple sources of capital and a fourth age marked within the collective imagination by the weight of its dependency and the totality of its lack.