Security and the liberal-democratic state. criminalizing young people's politics

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The years following the 2008 global recession saw many liberal-democratic states respond to the economic crisis by introducing austerity policies. In turn, this provoked widespread dissent and social movement activism involving large numbers of young people. In response, governments of many different political persuasions moved to suppress these actions by criminalizing political dissent. The article inquiries into state and institutional moves to suppress social movement activism like the 'Maple Spring' student strikes in Quebec, Canada, and the Indignados movement in Spain. While Canada can be described as a 'mature liberal-democracy' and Spain might be better described as an 'emergent liberal-democracy', both criminalized young people exercising their democratic and constitutionally guaranteed rights to free expression and assembly by engaging in various forms of political protests. While some of this can be explained by reference to contradictions inherent in liberal democracies, we consider if it also reflects certain long-standing prejudices directed at young people. Young people have traditionally attracted disproportionate attention from police and legal systems when they are involved in 'conventional' criminal conduct. What role if any did the 'youthful' face of protest play in government moves to criminalize dissent in 2011-12? An account of the 'civilizing offensive' highlights the influence of ageist assumptions that 'young people' require close management. This provides some insight into state responses to young people's engagement in politics when it goes beyond the conventional mode of 'youth participation' prescribed by states committed to managing electoral party politics.




Bessant, J., & Grasso, M. (2019). Security and the liberal-democratic state. criminalizing young people’s politics. Revista Internacional de Sociologia. CSIC Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas.

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