Imagining the Future
Do young Australians understand and live ‘equality’ and ‘difference’ differently from older generations? Is Australia the gender equal society that many claim it to be? How do we understand and explain growing economic inequality when our dominant ideologies are individualism and neoliberalism? What are or should be the limits of tolerance in our negotiation of cultural difference? Imagining the Future explores our contemporary complex equality narrative through the desires and dreams of 1000 young Australians and 230 of their parents from diverse backgrounds across Australia. This ‘extraordinary’ data set affords analysis of the impact of gender, socio-economic disadvantage, ethnicity, Aboriginality and sexuality on young people’s ‘imagined life stories’, or essays written about their future. An intergenerational comparison assesses how different young people really are from older generations. The book offers a compelling and subtle engagement with the sometimes ‘deeply moving’, sometimes ‘hilarious’ voices of young people to deliver insight into the challenges and complexity of gender and other social relations in early 21st century Australian society.
Young people yearn for and believe in equal opportunities, but their ‘imagined life stories’ indicate massive inequalities in the personal resources that will allow them to achieve their goals. They claim to live in a world of gender equality, even as they continue to cherish performances of gender difference. The gulf between young men’s and young women’s imagined intimate lives together suggest that many are bound for conflict. They (and indeed their parents) do not understand the world in terms of class relations, but proclaim that everyone is ‘the same’, even as they are aware of fine distinctions in economic resources and cultural capital. Alongside proclaimed acceptance of cultural diversity, the advantages experienced by virtue of being white challenges many young Australians. In an increasingly individualistic world, some young people perform in ‘intimate citizenship’, or personal engagements based on shared experiences. Like their parents, few understand obligations towards unmet others, which form the basis of national solidarity.