Opinion and Analysis: Bolivarian Project | Gender and Sexuality | Participation | Politics
Youth: The Struggle for Cultural Capital
The revolutionary cycle open in Venezuelan society since 1989 meant a deep transformation of the political regime and the pattern of development that the powerful groups were copying from the structures of later capitalism.
Like any revolution, the Bolivarian revolution has meant a deep cultural change. It has stirred up roles and social meanings that in the previous cycle were configured in a radically opposite way. An example of this is the emergence of the people as protagonist and with a valid social place, as with the high amount of symbolic disputes between the people and the elites.
In the area of gender disputes, women have inflicted a substantial blow to patriarchal control and today have a protagonistic presence in the various arenas of education while also winning considerable space in the leadership of community movements.
In this first study about the sociology of preferences we have been able to affirm the importance of the Venezuelan youth within the social spectrum as well as the deep transference of aspirations and values by previous generations to the youth.
Likewise, we can see a multidirectional tendency with our youth. On the one hand, we see values linked with the culture of consumerism based on the cultural-aesthetic structures of the late capitalism that are still present, and on the other hand, new educational horizons and the reinforcement of social connection are strongly developing and in a hegemonic way in this age group.
Today, 84% of our youth define themselves as happy, and almost 30% of them obtain that happiness through academic achievement. Additionally, 96.9% would study more, if they could.
This desirability is materialised through a substantial increase of their cultural capital. In revolutionary Venezuela, the consolidation of education as a sphere of inclusion is proven by the indicators of school and university enrolment. Otherwise, Venezuela wouldn’t have been recognised by UNESCO as the second country in Latin America for university enrolment, and the fourth in the world.
Likewise, the culture of participation of our youth has seen great advances; 62.8% would help out with a community project, and 67% believe that people participate in community activities in order to improve the community’s conditions.
Another striking element is the positive affirmation of their self-image, as when asked if they would improve an aspect of their body, a majority (58.5%) said no.
Valuing the area of political culture, Venezuelan youth won’t have anything to do with the picture of hopelessness, angst, and de-politicization that analysts painted of the [Venezuelan] youth of the 90s. Just the opposite, political debate is active in all of society, as much among the left as among the right, and their active presence in electoral contests is evidence of that.
Youth are identifying with the options for change represented by the Bolivarian government. Proof of that are the 56.2% of youth who recognise and approve of the management by President Chavez.
However, there are still aspects of the cultural-aesthetic structures of the late capitalism present in our youth. 57.7% would like to meet a famous person, 59.8% would like to dress in brand name clothing. Also, going over two critical themes in the moral and cultural debates of all of society related to civil rights, we find [the youth] still connected to conservative and moral restoration: 67.4% are critical of two people of the same gender having sexual relations and 90.4% of a 17 year old teenager getting pregnant and deciding to have an abortion.
The youth as a notion of future society is the area in which adults contest cultural hegemony and symbolic reproduction of their project for society.
Today, it is clear that the [revolutionary] process has managed to win for itself a large part of the social-political space of the youth, but in the cultural-aesthetic dimension values linked to the consumerism of the late capitalism are still present.
The big challenge for this revolutionary project is to achieve material improvements and improvements in social and political participation, with an effort that transcends the cultural-aesthetic structures and generates a new social scaffolding of preferences, desires, and values in accordance with the new socialist society under construction.
Translated by Tamara Pearson for Venezuelanalysis.com
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