Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

How Do Participatory Models Influence Youth Participation? A Case Study from Hungary

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

How Do Participatory Models Influence Youth Participation? A Case Study from Hungary

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

While there has been significant policy and research interest in youth political apathy, it is also important to note that political structures, processes and debates often marginalize young people (3) (not least by legal age requirements for political and other citizenship rights). This happens because they are primarily structured around adult interests and needs (see also Edwards 2007). Therefore, participation of young people in democratic institutions is not merely a question of their interest in politics, but also the result of available mobilization channels (Stolle, Hooghe, 2005:44, Skocpol 2003), and youth political participation depends as much on agency as on structure, that is, on the interest of democratic institutions and how open they are to having young people participate in them (Forbrig, 2005:15). While in some countries public authorities and civil organizations work together on expanding arenas for youth involvement in public life, in others young people have to find their ways for political expression in a situation of diminishing resources at their disposal (Loncle et al, 2012). The present paper estimates manifest "political participation" (including formal political behaviour as well as protest or extra-parliamentary political action) and less direct or "latent" forms of participation, conceptualized as "civic engagement" and "social involvement (Ekman--Amna, 2012).

The political opportunity structure paradigm in social movement research states that political opportunities shaped by access to the political system or alliance and conflict structures influence the choice of protest strategies and the impact of social movements on their environment. (Kitschelt, 1986:58). Drawing on this paradigm and on the findings of Stolle-Hooghe (2005:44) on youth participation, this paper argues that, if young people participate less intensively than adults, this is not just a matter of lower interest, but also a result of differences in their political opportunity structures.

Several government-initiated democracy programs take efforts to ameliorate the institutional context within which civic involvement takes place with the aim of involving citizens in decision making (Geissel-Newton, 2012). Participatory models introduce methods and practices that are more than renovation, minor modification or reform of an existing system (Newton, 2012). Democratic innovations as co-governance and consultative-discursive procedures have positive impact on civic education, namely on political knowledge and civic skills of the citizens (Geissel, B. 2012, 174-178). Where attempts to increase engagement through new forms of participation are successful, there is also a potential to promote the construction of new institutions (Aars, 2007:205). Because most innovations take part at the local level, it is especially interesting to scrutinize the effects of participatory options and procedures (Geissel, 2014; also see more about the complex relationship between state and local level in Kriz and Cermak, 2014). The main actors of promoting innovative solutions for youth participation are youth councils (a form of youth voice engaged in community decision-making) within the European Union. Youth councils exist on local, state, provincial, regional, national, and international levels among governments, non-governmental organizations (NGO), schools, and other entities.

Youth studies claim that "citizenship" and "community" are closely related concepts, and young people (4) can be addressed mostly in their micro-environment (Hall and Williams, 1999). Therefore it is extremely important to focus on the processes of their involvement at a local level.

Youth involvement within local spaces of the neighborhood and constructions of their everyday life around schools, households, peer and family networks that operate within these local spaces shapes the meaning they make of politics and the action they take on political and on social issues (Harris-Wyn, 2009:339). …

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