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Memory, Youth, Political Legacy And Civic Engagement

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Youth and radical politics

An in-depth study on the extent of involvement of European youth in politics could help reveal why many young people are becoming disenchanted by the political system and potentially receptive to radical populist agendas.

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It is widely assumed that politics and civic engagement are far from the minds of most young Europeans, constituting a worrying political apathy on the part of youth. At the same time European governments and authorities express growing concern about a minority of young people who are becoming attracted to populist and radical ideologies. The EU funded MYPLACE (Memory, youth, political legacy and civic engagement) project investigated the civic and political engagement and activism of young Europeans to assess how warranted these concerns are. Using surveys, case studies, interviews and ethnographies the project articulated the dynamics that govern political heritage, civic engagement and political engagement. It sought to capture the likelihood of young Europeans embracing radical and populist ideals. To achieve its aims the project team combined knowledge from different fields such as democratic theory, memory studies and far right studies, answering three main questions. The first question revolved around how young people understand politics and the extent to which they engage with it. MYPLACE found that 42 % of young Europeans surveyed were actually interested in politics, although they were highly cynical towards politics, politicians and political system. Rather than a rejection of politics, young Europeans tend towards a disavowal of formal, institutional politics. On whether young people are receptive to populist and radical right political agendas, the project team found high potential for receptivity to radical political ideologies due to the continuing financial crisis and austerity. While overall 73 % still believe in the key principles of democracy with little support for extremism, there was marked hostility towards immigrants and ethnic minorities in some locations. Thirdly, regarding how the past shapes young people’s engagement today, the team found that historical memory transmitted from older family members contributed to shaping current attitudes. At the same time MYPLACE identified strong potential for schools and museums to help educate young people about key historical events and processes. The findings of MYPLACE have been disseminated through numerous events, publications, books, articles and media. They point to a complex relationship between historical legacy, current political and civic engagement and potential receptivity to radical political agendas and could help authorities understand the potential for engaging young people in positive political and civic activism and avoid political disaffection being converted into support for radical right wing political forces’.


Politics, European youth, MYPLACE, populism, radical right

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