Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

How to Engage "Democratic Natives"? Political Sophistication as Important Determinant of Civic Activity of Young Citizens in New Democracies (the Case of Poland)

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

How to Engage "Democratic Natives"? Political Sophistication as Important Determinant of Civic Activity of Young Citizens in New Democracies (the Case of Poland)

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Today's 20 to 25-year olds are standing on the threshold of a most inhospitable future, and they are prepared to deal with it to varying degrees. In many Central and Eastern European countries, they were the first generation of educated citizens to be brought up in democratic states. Referring to Marc Prensky's (2001) well-known expression, they can be called "democratic natives." Youth (their current phase of life) shapes how they are perceived from the outside (e.g., by older generations). It also determines how they participate, express themselves and communicate with their environment (Garcia-Albacete 2014). The context of this phase of their lives will be crucial for their future socio-political attitudes (Junes 2015). Therefore, their historical experience and the social, economic and cultural conditions under which they grew up are of great significance (Inglehart 1977; Inglehart & Welzel 2005). Young people are active subjects of generational change, in which, as Piotr Sztompka says, "those who have been mentally "polluted" by the communist experience move to the margin of social life, and the young generation is made up of people already born, raised and educated under the new system" (2010, p. 274).

1. Those who are referred to as democratic natives in this paper grow up, learn and shape their political culture and social capital in a free, democratic, inclusive and increasingly borderless Europe, within a globalized world of modern technology that is spreading, and which organizes their lives (Marzccki 2013b, p. 10-14). However, democracy is no longer as safe as it used to be. Young people who were born in the late 1980s and 1990s in Central and Eastern European countries (and who did not personally experience the undemocratic times in those countries) treat values such as freedom, independence and democracy as pre-existing rather than hard-won phenomena and social norms (though not necessarily indirectly). This may determine their specific approach to these values (Guzik, Marzccki & Stach 2015). Today, the new generation, whose voices can be increasingly heard in the public sphere in countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and many others, were raised and socialized under conditions organized by the following three main phenomena. Transformation--new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe struggled (and continue to struggle) with many problems associated with the multidimensional process known as "transformation"--a source of social trauma (Sztompka 2000; 2010, p. 139-149). Some researchers point out that the period of transformation caused a "trauma of great change" among the young generation too, which in later years was reinforced by numerous affairs, corruption scandals, arguments between politicians, aggression and violence, all of which were ever present in the public sphere. Others point out that the young generation has become, in a sense, a "victim" of political change (Kovacheva 2012, p. 48-49; Kuhar & Reiter 2012, p. 77).

2. Globalization (including European integration)--the extremely complex and multidimensional processes (Mills & Blossfeld 2006) referred to as globalization are usually presented in two ways (Giddens 1991; Held & McGrew 2003; Ray 2007): (1) by highlighting the risks that are an inherent part of the modern world and (2) by stressing the opportunities and possibilities that globalization opens up to society (Gidley 2001, p. 89). These determine how young people lead their lives (World Youth Report 2003, p. 291). In economic terms, one of the most important problems for today's young generation in the era of globalization is their place in the labour market (see: Roberts 1998, p. 23). There are also many cultural paradoxes which affect the lives of young people. On the one hand, they live in a world of "unlimited" opportunity (thanks mainly to new media), in which they adopt the roles of pleasure--and consumption--oriented actors. …

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