Struggling for tomorrow: the future orientations of youth activism in a democratic crisis

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Recent protest movements worldwide have painted a picture of youth striving in times of crisis to secure self-determination and justice for more democratic futures. While traditional theory has viewed youth activism as the result of structural strains or collapse of order, recent studies have focused attention upon the role of future orientations merely as movement strategies. What is missing from these accounts, and what this article seeks to address, is the initiatives of youth to carry out their future-oriented agendas and struggles at the grassroots. Drawing upon interview data with young citizens, who took part in recent political activism in response to a democratic crisis in Hong Kong, this article illustrates how young people were involved in political struggles as they enacted their life goals and identities. Rather than static political ideals, these visions of future were constantly reconstituted in the activist practices alongside unfolding crises. This article thus re-theorises youth activism simultaneously as the manifestation as well as the constitution of alternative futures in practice. Moving beyond the notion of youth activism as passive reaction to repression or abstract political anticipation, it leverages for youth agency and everyday experience to understand youth’s political imagination and commitment to social transformation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-257
Number of pages16
JournalContemporary Social Science
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2017


  • Democracy
  • futures
  • Hong Kong
  • social movements
  • youth activism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • General Social Sciences


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