This essay was the runner up in the undergraduate category of the Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics 2017
Written by University of Oxford Student, Andreas Masvie
The West in general, and perhaps Europe in particular, tend to celebrate youth politics as a vital force of democracy. This is reflected in the current literature on youth politics, which appears to be almost exclusively descriptive (e.g. ‘What is the level of youth politics in country X?’) or positively normative (e.g. ‘How can country X heighten engagement in youth politics?’). Various youth councils and parliaments are encouraged and empowered by government as well as civil society, both at local and national level. This is also the case internationally. The UN, for instance, demands that youth politics be stimulated: “[Such] engagement and participation is central to achieving sustainable human development.” I will approach the rationale of this collective celebration as a syllogism, defining ‘youth politics’ as organized political engagement of people aged 13–25:
P1 Youth politics increases the level of political engagement;
P2 Political engagement promotes democratic vitality and sustainability; thus
C1 Youth politics promotes democratic vitality and sustainability.
In this paper I am interested in challenging P2. Does the increased political engagement due to youth politics promote democratic vitality and sustainability? For the sake of argument, I will posit the trueness of P1. When it comes to P2: it would be difficult to argue that all forms of political engagement promote democratic vitality and sustainability (e.g. authoritarian neo-Nazism or revolutionary Communism). Hence, I shall take it for granted that P2 is constrained to activities and policies compatible with democracy.
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