Young People, Everyday Civic Life and the Limits of Social Cohesion
In recent times, many Western governments have shifted focus from multiculturalism tosocial cohesion in their efforts to address the impact of increased cultural diversity withincommunities. One of the many and complex triggers for this change has been concernabout the marginalisation of young people of minority backgrounds from mainstreamculture, in turn prompted by acts of civil unrest, violence, and even terrorism by youth.In this article I focus not so much on why the social cohesion ideal of integration isproblematic for young people (although it clearly is), but on the implicit assumptionsabout what constitutes good participation in community that underlie any cohesiondrivenemphasis on integration into civic life in the first place. In doing so, I consider howmany young Australians’ modes of imagining, forging, and engaging in community,which are very much a product of growing up in times of super-diversity, globalisation,and individualisation, sit uneasily with mainstream communitarian notions of civic lifethat are founded on twentieth-century forms of community and participation that are nolonger evident or sustainable in contemporary societies. I suggest that a social cohesionagenda may not adequately account for the particular circumstances and experiences ofyoung people because of its assumptions about community and civic engagement thattake both adult and modern life as its reference points.