Building social capital & promoting an active & engaged citizenry in the wake of neoliberalism : perspectives of youth practitioners

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O'Brien, Michael
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BA (Hons) in Social Science
Dublin Business School
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The neoliberal project has eroded civil society and championed the cause of corporations and the individual since its inception in the 70s. We have become less trustful not only of each other but also of our governments. There has been a marked decline in political participation and community involvement. As a response to this atrophy we have been given the ideas of social capital, active citizenship and a renewed idea of civil society; which have in many circles been viewed as a further extension of the neoliberal project and a further depoliticisation of society. Experiential education, outdoor education and service learning seem to be the ways to infer these skills to the populace, the way to build social capital and promote an active and politically engaged citizenry. This study looks at practitioner‟s views on; the decline of civil society, current debate on active citizenship and on projects with the aims of the study at their core. It points to a lack of provision in the area, but draws on and analyses the perspectives of the practitioners with a view to constructing a picture of what a project with the aims of building social capital and promoting a more socio-politically engaged populace might look like. Author keywords: Social capital, civil society, neoliberalism, community, outdoor education service, learning, experiential education