The relational self and the political engagements of young adults

Nathan Manning*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores the recent concern over young people’s apathy and disengagement from politics. It critically addresses this, first, by examining and contesting some of the literature addressing this alleged apathy and dissociation, revealing a particular, narrow and regulatory model of politics and an accompanying liberal notion of self. In contrast, a relational model of self is posited as more sociologically robust and suited to contemporary social life. Second, the article describes a qualitative Australian study of young people aged 18–30 years, recruited from across the political spectrum. In contrast to the key liberal principles, participants highlight interconnectedness, permeable public/private divides and the important role of friends and family in fostering and sustaining their political engagements. It is argued that the relational interconnected model of self presented by the participants reflects the conditions of contemporary social life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)486-500
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Sociology
Issue number4
Early online date26 Nov 2012
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


  • politics
  • relational self
  • young people

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