Burnt by Democracy: Youth, Inequality, and the Erosion of Civic Life
Published: November 2023© 2024
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 248 Pages
Illustrations: 2 b&w tables
Dimensions: 6.00 x 9.00
248 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.75 in, 2 b&w tables
Burnt by Democracy traces the political ascendance of neoliberalism and its effects on youth. The book explores democracy and citizenship as described in interviews with over forty young people – ages 16 to 30 – who have either experienced homelessness or identify as an activist, living in five liberal democracies: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
Highlighting significant cuts to social and affordable housing, astronomical increases in the costs of higher education, and the transformation and erosion of state benefits systems, Jacqueline Kennelly argues that democracy’s decline is not occurring because young people are apathetic, or focused on informal politics, or unaware of their civic duties. Rather, it is because of collective misunderstanding about how democracy is actually structured, how individuals learn to participate, and how growing wealth inequality has undermined the capacity of those at the bottom to meaningfully advocate for changes that might improve their conditions.
Against a vivid and often heart-breaking backdrop of stories from young people struggling to survive and thrive under conditions of ever-expanding state retrenchment and inequality, Burnt by Democracy makes a timely and impassioned plea for protecting and strengthening democracy by truly levelling the playing field for all.
1. The growth of inequality across (neo)liberal democracies
2. Democratic dispositions in the twenty-first century
3. Democratic biographies: Pathways towards a democratic disposition
4. Democracy’s failures/failures of democracy
5. The social distribution of democratic knowledge
6. Belonging to the state: Citizenship as symbolic power
Conclusions: When I say the word “democracy,” what comes to mind?
Appendix 1: Youth participants by country (all names are pseudonyms)
“Burnt by Democracy provides us with a rich and insightful picture of the ways youth understand democracy and what the political and personal implications of these varied understandings are. But just as importantly, it also goes beyond description by wisely pointing to necessary policies and actions that interrupt dominance.” Michael W. Apple, John Bascom Professor of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Policy Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison, and author of Can Education Change Society?
“Burnt by Democracy is accurate, timely, and succinct. Jacqueline Kennelly takes readers across time and place, outlining methodological considerations, and providing a convincing theoretical framing. Incorporating ideas of Bourdieu and Arendt, interdisciplinary audiences will learn something new without being overwhelmed. There is a good balance between empirical and theoretical richness. The book provides opportunities to think optimistically alongside young people, while also igniting attention towards continued injustice.” Yvette Taylor, Professor of Education, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
“It is refreshing to see a work on youth politics and citizenship that engages seriously with political theory. Burnt by Democracy is innovative in the field and a substantial advance in the field’s state of the art. Kennelly offers a genuinely new research agenda in studies of youth citizenship that is engaging seriously with the way that structural inequalities interact with various forms of politics to shape political practices. The book moves decisively beyond the rather limited contemporary emphasis on participation in all of its forms.” David Farrugia, ARC Future Fellow, Deakin University