Subjects, agents, or collectives? The discourse of youth and philosophy

The term ‘youth’, which is traditionally used to refer both to young people of a certain age bracket and to a time of life between childhood and maturity, has acquired distinctive yet contradictory meanings since the 19th century. The category of people, individuals, or persons that the concept describes or purports to analyse (the so-called young people, teenagers, pubescents, adolescents) may be regarded as subjects in the philosophical sense of being persons capable of intentional behaviour and to whom intentional predicates (beliefs and desires) can be ascribed but not, however, as a collective agent, with the capacity for goal-directed activity (such as, for example, political, social, or national transformation), in spite of the shift in the use of the concept from a singular to a collective noun. In fact, the term ‘youth’ is a vacuous concept, and lacks any philosophic or analytic significance or explanatory value in social theory and, especially, in philosophy. The discourse of youth which deploys the concept can only sustain the ‘politics of collective singularity’ whereby a singular or a single collective subject or a parasitic structure usurps, or feeds on, the activity and capacity of empirical subjects (young people). Examples of ‘discourses’ of youth come from Nigeria. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract, edited]

Title: Subjects, agents, or collectives? The discourse of youth and philosophy
Author: Bello-Kano, Ibrahim
Year: 2009
Periodical: Legon Journal of the Humanities (ISSN 0855-1502)
Volume: 20
Pages: 45-68
Language: English
Notes: biblio. refs.
Geographic terms: Nigeria
West Africa
world
Abstract: The term ‘youth’, which is traditionally used to refer both to young people of a certain age bracket and to a time of life between childhood and maturity, has acquired distinctive yet contradictory meanings since the 19th century. The category of people, individuals, or persons that the concept describes or purports to analyse (the so-called young people, teenagers, pubescents, adolescents) may be regarded as subjects in the philosophical sense of being persons capable of intentional behaviour and to whom intentional predicates (beliefs and desires) can be ascribed but not, however, as a collective agent, with the capacity for goal-directed activity (such as, for example, political, social, or national transformation), in spite of the shift in the use of the concept from a singular to a collective noun. In fact, the term ‘youth’ is a vacuous concept, and lacks any philosophic or analytic significance or explanatory value in social theory and, especially, in philosophy. The discourse of youth which deploys the concept can only sustain the ‘politics of collective singularity’ whereby a singular or a single collective subject or a parasitic structure usurps, or feeds on, the activity and capacity of empirical subjects (young people). Examples of ‘discourses’ of youth come from Nigeria. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract, edited]