Youth Transitions and Social Exclusion: Developments in Social Capital Theory
22 June 2000
An article by Carlo Raffo and Michelle Reeves, Journal of Youth Studies, 3(2), pp.147-166
This article matches the theoretical aspects of social capital with lived experiences of socially disadvantaged young people in Manchester. The authors conclude that young people who are able to develop strong, effective and fluid individualized systems of social capital stand the greatest chance of long-term survival and ability to ride the currents of post-industrial change.
Raffo and Reeves argue that young people’s lives are characterised by an increasing complexity and uncertainty in terms of their apparent options for post-school destinations as well as lifestyle and consumption choices. Young people living in disadvantaged urban areas have borne the brunt of societal changes, such as changing labour market requirements and social policies which having fractured and extended the transitions process. They argue that social capital, networks and relations are most important in explaining the school-to-work transitions of young people, not purely social background.
In their research, the authors carried out semi-structured interviews with 31 young people, aged between 15 and 24, from disadvantaged areas of Manchester. The interview themes included experiences of schooling, careers advice, training and further education, experiences of employment, future aspirations, leisure, consumption and the information society, dealing with risk, major disappointments, and influential people.
Raffo and Reeves’ theoretical approach is influenced by the concepts of structured individualism, chains of mutual dependence, habitus and social capital theory. They reject ‘overly deterministic’ accounts of youth transition and claim that young people with certain social relations can have higher aspirations than their apparent social reality. Importantly, not all young people with similar social connections will have the same world view or career aspirations. Instead, the authors suggest four types of individualised social capital: weak, strong, changing and fluid. These capture the different constraints and opportunities afforded to similar young people because of the specific social relations they experience, yet are not fixed to an individual, and evolve according to changing dynamics in their lives. However, there are also more fixed forms of social capital, reflecting strong and long term ties, which provide opportunities for effective learning interactions, as well as the influence of ‘outsiders’ to the individual’s locality or class. The individualised network is not completely predetermined for each individual and there are opportunities for change, development and enhancement.
Young people who are able to develop strong, effective and fluid individualized systems of social capital stand the greatest chance of long-term survival and ability to ride the currents of post-industrial change.