The disruptive power of recognition: the case of young environmental activists.

Notice bibliographique

Bessant, J et Pickard, S. (2023) The disruptive power of recognition: the case of young environmental activists. Dans J. Connor (dir.), Handbook on Youth Activism (p. 31-45). Edward Elgar.


Increasing numbers of young people around the world are calling for environmental justice. Movements like the youth-led Fridays For Future are a significant and transformative feature of contemporary global politics. Also important are continuing attempts by power elites pursuing their own political agendas to dismiss, deride and marginalise these young political actors by recycling traditional tropes about the alleged immaturity, inexperience and vulnerability of young people when it comes to politics. In this chapter, we draw on the idea of ‘justice as recognition’ developed by philosophers including Taylor (1992), Fraser (1994) and Honneth (1996; 2014), to engage in a ‘thought experiment’ for the purpose of thinking through a hypothesis or theory and its possible consequences. With particular reference to young environmental activists, we ask what might follow if young people were recognised by established political leaders and others, in ways that acknowledge them as fully free and equal to other persons, as well as legitimate political participants? We contend the likely result would be truly disruptive, resulting in something akin to the consequences that followed from the recognition of other ‘minority’ groups, as women, indigenous people, and people of colour through the twentieth century. This ‘thought experiment’ highlights the inherently disruptive capacity of any successful struggle for recognition. It also points to the ways young people are currently misrecognised by elites and many others in ways that rely on demeaning and harmful representations of them to justify the continuing deliberate exclusion of young people from the public sphere.


Publication du membre

Sarah Pickard

Appartenance aux volets