Aging Political Activists: Personal Narratives from the Old Left

By David P. Shuldiner | Go to book overview
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Chapter Three
The Aging of Politics and the Politics of Aging

LIFE TRANSITIONS

It is the premise of this book that the formation and expression of political identity in old age is embedded in a lifelong process of ideational development. Such a view places this book comfortably within the family of "life-span" and "life-transition" studies, which portray aging not simply as a qualitatively different stage or social world, but as an ongoing movement, part of an evolving history in which it is both determined and determining. Within such a framework, personal and political development, family and social history, and historical events each have interlocking roles in the development of the whole person (see, for example, Hareven 1982; Hareven & Adams 1982).

There are virtually no studies of late life political activism conducted from a lifespan/life transition perspective. A notable exception is the ground breaking study Lifetimes of Commitment: Aging, Politics, Psychology, by Molly Andrews ( 1991). This work draws from interviews with fifteen British men and women, aged seventy to ninety, who have been political activists for most of their lives. It interweaves the personal development of their identities with the social and historical conditions in which they initiated and sustained their political involvements into late life. Many of the points that I raise in this book are anticipated in her study, to which I would refer readers seeking a thorough analysis of similar issues with reference to a different, but related, group of interview subjects.

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