When the period of transition to adulthood extends to the late twenties and the transition process become more or less individualised, youth may acquire a different meaning. Not only does the transition process itself change, the destination also seems more diffuse than at the height of organised modernity. As John R. Gillis argues, youth has no monopoly on the future. When the ‘fixed, fast-frozen relations’ of organised capitalism have been swept away, everyone has to think of themselves ‘in a perpetual state of becoming’ (Gillis 1993: 13). In other words, there is seemingly no longer any clear-cut boundary between youth and adulthood or other age categories for that sake. The blurring of age distinctions is at odds with the conception of age relations implicit in the dominant discourse of youth, and as this institutional structuring of youth changes, the discourse of youth and young people’s understanding and actions will probably also change. Seen in such a perspective, we may have reached some kind of a turning point in the history of youth (Zinnecker, 1985). If youth no longer can be interpreted as ‘a bridge’ between childhood and adulthood as two stable statuses, there is an alternative scenario of some kind of perpetual youth. To reconceptualise youth in terms of ‘perpetual becoming’ rather than ‘a transition’ has a potential of wide ranging consequences for education and more generally for the relation between generations.
The data material used in this article was supplied by the Norwegian Social Science Data Services. Data were collected and processed by the Central Bureau of Statistics, Norway. Neither of these institutions is responsible for the data analyses or the interpretations provided here. Financial support was provided. The project preseneted in this article has been carried out with financial support by The Norwegian Youth Research Centre, The Norwegian Research Council.
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