GenWhat: State, Politics and Risk Society

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


As an innovative snapshot of a generation, the Generation What survey offers unique insights into the values, attitudes and experiences of young people in Ireland. Apparent from the data are critical views towards political, economic and state systems articulated by participants demonstrating social liberal outlooks. Paying attention to the socio-economic maelstrom experienced by millennials in recent years, this paper analyses the Irish data related to the economy, state and political institutions through the lens of Ulrich Beck’s concept of ‘risk society.’ Findings from the Generation What research are reviewed in tandem with empirical data on topics such as trust, youth unemployment and precarious work juxtaposed with a decline in trade union membership.

Exploring some of the participants’ responses to inequality and solidarity in contrast to their individualism, the paper considers if these findings are evidence of cosmopolitization. The paper also examines participants’ distrust of key institutions, particularly the state, political system and trade unions, questioning whether these perspectives indicate ‘the start of new politics…outside the formal realm of politics’ (Macionis and Plummer, 2012, p. 518). Concluding with a summary of some paradoxes evident within the data, the paper evaluates the applicability of Beck’s concepts to the Irish Generation What findings.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventSociological Association of Ireland Annual Conference - University of Ulster, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 05 May 201706 May 2017


ConferenceSociological Association of Ireland Annual Conference
CountryUnited Kingdom


  • Generation What
  • Young parents
  • millennial generation
  • Irish state
  • politics
  • risk society
  • individualisation
  • distrust
  • l;egitimacy
  • state institutions


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