Giuseppe A. Micheli

Why are Italian young adults so inert in the face of their very critical situation? Life course drifts and generational constraints

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: generational frames, life course drifts, identity logics, diversionary strategies, crisis moods.

For the first time in a century, the younger generations of Italians are subject to a marked decline in status. But can a comparison between different generations be based solely on objective data, or should we go more deeply into how they themselves perceive their situation? And how distant from one another must two cohorts be in order to be able to keep their frames distinct? Finally, why are Italian young adults so inert in the face of their very critical situation? This article aims to address these questions by developing three arguments. To begin with, the author embeds the process of formation of a generational memory in a plexus of distinct channels running along distinct time coordinates. Then, he analyzes how life course events condition the choices made by a single generation and how lifelong recurring criticalities may produce a gradual shift in the decision-making process from «rational» to identity and non-goal-oriented logics, and so on down to merely diversionary strategies. Lastly, he explores intergenerational dynamics in respect of both the transmission of cognitive memory and the negotiation of social practices. Two answers are thus suggested to the initial questions. Firstly, what leads the younger generations towards a state of unconscious inertness is not so much the hardness of their economic situation as, rather, its persistency, which makes them shift towards a state of hopelessness. Secondly, the particular way in which the values of democracy and welfare were transmitted from the older generations in the 1960s and 1970s, namely by «octroyage» rather than physiological bargaining, may keep the younger generations from taking personal and conscious possession of that heritage.

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