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Youth and Generation in Europe

ESA Research Network

by Jean Charles Lagree

The situation of the sociological study of youth is quite uneven in Europe. In some countries, the sociology of youth is well established, well recognized by the academic authorities and has developed its own social milieu. In others, this sociology is deprived of any kind of legitimacy and is forced to make its way under the umbrella of a more theoretical approach, such as sociology of life course, life cycle, generation etc. Finally, in some countries, sociology of youth is still embryonic and almost nonexistent.

But beyond this uneven development and these various forms, more striking still is the cleavage and the lack of contacts and communication between researchers who are supposed to share the same interests, focus on the same population and, perhaps, raise the same set of questions. A scientific community of youth sociologists exists only at the national level and not, as yet, at the European level. A research network on Youth and Generation in Europe would bring together various cultural traditions of research and make easier the confrontation of different theoretical backgrounds. Hence, the participants in a European research Network focusing on Youth and Generation in Europe will have two main objectives:

  • to learn to work together
  • to initiate, encourage and support research in the sociology of youth at the European level.

Already various networks exist:

(1) The ISA's Research Committee Sociology of Youth. This research committee is organized on a regional basis. The ESA network Youth Generation and Europe will lean on the activities and members of this ISA research committee;

(2) The ESA Youth and Generation in Europe Network will be secant to others various initiatives such as the Nordic Youth Research Association from which several researchers have already expressed interest in the ESA Network. Since, the ESA Youth and Generation in Europe Network want to be a place of conjunction, discussion, collaboration between researchers from different cultural backgrounds, the same kind of connection will be searched with any network or association of Youth sociologists based in the South of Europe or in the Eastern countries;

(3) A group of European sociologists of youth already have organized themselves into a network called CYRCE (Circle for Youth Research Cooperation in Europe). CYRCE is a non-profit association for the promotion of research, policy and practice in the field of childhood and youth in Europe. Its actual membership consists of 13 established academics, administrators, policymakers and researchers from 9 European countries, who look back to long standing involvement in transnational youth-related research and policy endeavors.

This Year, CYRCE has edited the first volume of a new series dedicated to promote European networks of youth specialists (The Puzzle of Integration: European Yearbook on Youth Policy and research, vol 1, 1995, Berlin, W. de Gruyter). Most of CYRCE members will take part in the ESA Youth-Generation network;

(4) IARD, a leading non-profit research institute operation in the field of youth research, has set up TREU (Task force for Research in Europe), its own research and networking unit devoted to monitoring European research activities as well as to setting up a long term scientific network of researchers and institutions. TREU will join the ESA Youth Generation network;

(5) Last but not least, as part of the Budapest Conference, a two-day working group was organized on the theme Generational Change in Postwar Europe. On that occasion, during informal discussions, several researchers expressed their interest in a following up more focused on the Youth problematic. Some of them are already enlisted among those who would like to join such a European network.

What does the Youth and Generation in Europe plan to do?

There is an obvious answer to this question: Networking. In my view, in order to face up to challenges coming from the European Union and the underlying process of building up a European Community of Social Scientists, the most important and urgent priority is to learn to work together. The most useful thing to do is to find out similarities and differences between professional cultures of European social scientists. Not only differences of theoretical framework, or concepts and the use of varying methodologies but also traditions and institutional work conditions. Research Committees and Workshops during congresses are good tools to act in that direction. But, in order to be fruitful, the solemnity of such great events has to be sustained by a more daily activity, which can take several directions:

  • an exchange of information: with Internet (WWW),
  • an electronic discussion list;
  • the organization of bi- or tri-lateral seminars (two day seminars with 2 or 3 countries),
  • to encourage and foster collective application to the DGXXII,
  • an annual seminar.

In what ways does the topic deal with European issues ?

I see at least two ways to tackle this question:

(1) From the viewpoint of the Task Force - the researchers. As mentioned above, it seems that we are already in the process of building up an European Community of social scientists. Better to recognize this rather than to ignore it. A network can sustain this process, providing for willing researchers a better knowledge of their surroundings;

(2) As far as the scientific topic is concerned it would be easy to point out the Youth Effect upon the ongoing process of European Integration. Willingly or not, do young people support the process of European Integration? How are they part of the process of the construction of a European identity? Are differences between European youth(s) increasing or decreasing?

It is little point in saying that the Sociology of Youth is short of comparative investigations. If this ESA network is able to initiate more comparative and collaborative research, that already will be a great achievement, but, at its starting point, all comparative undertaking has to make clear its purpose. Here, it is to know a little bit more about the situation and the participation of Young People in the process of European Integration.


Researchers interested in such a network are invited to contact me at the following address:

Dr. Jean Charles LAGREE
(CNRS - France),
London School of Economics,
European Institute, Houghton Street,
London WC2A 2AE

Phone: +44 171 955 75 38
Fax: +44 171 955 75 46

EURODATA Newsletter No. 2 Article 2