Exploring the Epistemological Fallacy: Subjectivity and Class in the Lives of Young People

Abstract

The relevance and continuation of class in late modern society has been at the heart of contemporary debates in youth studies.
Beck and others argue that major social changes are impacting individual’s relationships with status-based classes. Individuals
have been ‘disembedded’ from traditional communal contexts and re-embedded into new modes in which the ability to create life
paths and new identities is achieved through individual reflexivity. How these changes and developments are impacting the
class relationships and trajectories of young people is an important area of debate. It has been suggested that while the
young see individual solutions and choices as central to their lives, outcomes are still strongly connected to social class.
This contradiction has been seen as an ‘epistemological fallacy’ where a disjuncture between objective and subjective dimensions
obscures underlying class relationships. This article draws on data collected from an ESRC research programme on Pathways
Into and Out of Crime and the work of Pierre Bourdieu to explore understandings, meanings and relevance of class in young
people’s lives. This is accomplished primarily by depicting how class is subjectively impacting young people’s educational
and occupational choices and how it is embedded in their everyday reflexivity.

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