The conforming power of neoliberal violence in youth and hyper-governed young people’s stories of resistance

Author: Ben Lohmeyer

Lohmeyer, Ben, 2018 The conforming power of neoliberal violence in youth and hyper-governed young people’s stories of resistance, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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Close attention in this thesis to hyper-governed young people’s stories of neoliberal violence reveals not only the previously unexamined conforming power of such violence, but also these young people’s discursive strategies for resistance to it. My original contribution to knowledge is that youth can be understood as an artefact of this governing violence. I argue that youth is a period of governing young people through violence, producing their conformity to the personal, structural, symbolic and cultural dimensions of neoliberal violence. Neoliberal violence is described by Giroux as the rising inequality and marginalisation of young people produced by the hollowing out of social services (2014, 224). Hyper-governed describes the young people in this study who experience heightened surveillance and regulation within the already highly governed period called youth (Kelly and Kamp 2014, 7–8). Drawing on their stories gathered from 28 semi-structured interviews, I construct an argument that challenges the popular association between youth and violence. Rather than youth being a period of graduating out of violence, I argue it is a period of internalising sanctioned forms of violence. In short, violence done to young people shapes the violence done by them.

I challenge this popular association between youth and violence via a three-stage argument. A central feature of this argument is the connection between hyper-governed young people’s situated knowledge (Law 2004, 3) and the broader narratives of youth and violence. In the first stage I examine the effects of neoliberal violence done to hyper-governed young people. These effects are made visible via examining a particular example of neoliberal violence: the use of ‘Fair Process’ (Kim and Mauborgne 2003) in restorative practices (Wachtel 2012). The second stage unpacks the conforming power of neoliberal violence in youth. In this section I develop a counter narrative to the popular association between youth and violence. It is here I propose that hyper-governed young people are rendered docile by the hegemonic mythology of neoliberal violence. The final stage is a reorientation of the positioning of hyper-governed young people from passive subjects to active agents of change. Hyper-governed young people are not simply rendered docile to neoliberal violence by structural forces; but rather they express their agency through discursive resistance. This discursive resistance is essential to combat the hegemonic mythology of neoliberal violence. With this form of resistance, young people develop language and knowledge to facilitate the enactment of hopeful realities.

To examine the hyper-governed young people’s resistance to the conforming power of neoliberal violence in youth, this research is theoretically located at the nexus of critical youth sociology and the emerging sociology of violence. Youth violence is reconsidered in this thesis by exposing the structural, cultural (Galtung 1969, 1990) and symbolic (Bourdieu 2001) dimensions of neoliberal violence. Introducing this analysis of violence to critical youth sociology mutually informs the emerging sociology of violence, which is yet to directly appreciate young people’s knowledge and experience with neoliberal violence. This reconceptualisation of the relationship between youth and violence creates opportunities for the re-examination of governing practices, policy objectives and service provision surrounding youth and violence.

Keywords: Youth, Violence, Neoliberal Violence, Hyper-governed, Young People, Resistance, Governance

Subject: Sociology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2018
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Nik Taylor