Threadgold’s book Youth, Class and Everyday Struggles wins 2020 Raewyn Connell Prize

Monday, 30 November 2020

Sociologist with the Newcastle Youth Studies NetworkAssociate Professor Steven Threadgold has won the biennial 2020 Raewyn Connell Prize awarded by The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) for his book Youth, Class and Everyday Struggles, published by Routledge.

Youth class and everyday struggles book

The prize is awarded at the TASA Conference to the best first monograph by an author within the discipline of sociology in Australia. Watch the award presentation.

Youth Class and Everyday Struggles brings together findings from two of Threadgold’s research projects. The first looking at young musicians from the underground music scene across the east coast of Australia and a project focusing on how class is represented in the media via the frequently used figures of hipster and bogan. In the book, Threadgold uses these research projects as case studies to look at how class is represented in day-to-day interactions through the concepts of popular sociological theorist Pierre Bourdieu.

Chair of the 2020 Raewyn Connell Prize Selection Panel Associate Professor Lucy Nicholas said “The book was clear and accessible without compromising theoretical complexity and conceptual ambition, which is no easy feat and something too rare in academic books! Threadgold’s sheer mastery of the field came through, making an exceptional contribution to youth studies beyond the established and dated paradigms. The data was excellent and the take on Australian youth culture timely towards some incredible ideas, written so well, and supported by the evidence presented masterfully.”

Threadgold says he is surprised and delighted with the win, a thrill for a first time solo author.

“I’m happy that youth sociology is being highlighted, not only because I’m so invested in it, but because young people are one of the more denegrated and misunderstood groups in society, despite being the group that often bare the brunt of economic downturns and political moral panics.”

In the book Threadgold takes a fresh, more culturally focused technique of thinking about class and how it operates in our everyday lives.

“We can think about class as an economic category, as it relates to the things we own, what kind of house we live in and how much money we have in the bank. However, what I’m interested in is the more cultural formulations of class – especially through notions such as tastes, morals and creativity – and especially how these relations make us feel about our selves, those around us, and what it means to have a good life,” Threadgold said.

“With middle class points of view dominating the media and politics, the effect is that those kind of morals, ethics and values are seen as normal and legitimate, effectively leaving out a lot of people.”

Threadgold’s says his interest in class is motivated by the fact that it’s a concept that is largely denied in our public discourse. His work on hipsters and bogans is a way to get an understanding about what that looks like in everyday life.

“My interest in class is about showing there are systematic inequalities that can’t necessarily be overcome by trying harder or making the right choices. The ways things are distributed in society is very unequal and it seems to be getting worse. Young people are often blamed for making the ‘wrong’ choices, or for not taking up opportunities that no longer really exist. The invocation of hipsters and bogans in various media forms was a good way of illustrating some representational aspects of this.”

The research with young people in the DIY creative scene demonstrates young people making decisons about their careers and lifestyles that are not necessarily about having more money, but being able to create a life that they feel is ethical, sustainable and satisfying.

“Many young people in the punk scenes that I spoke to had done the Uni courses, got the apparently good job, made all the ‘right’ decisions, but found it all deeply unsatisfying and empty, and very unlikely that they would ever be able to afford to buy a house anywhere near where they wanted to live. So they were making decisions about career through their punk values, deciding to get out of the rat race and focus on the things they are passionate about, which is usually their creative endevours. This involves a tacit acceptance of poverty, which would be deemed irrational by many economists, but is a reasonable and moral response to the structural constraints and ever-present precarity that they face.’

Steven was received his prize at the TASA virtual conference on Thursday November 26th 2020.

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