Purpose – This article analyses the discourse on youth democratic participation in key policy documents and statements related to and produced within the EU Structured Dialogue on youth. The purpose is to examine and interpret understandings of and perceptions about young people’s democratic participation. It critically discusses what kind of role is attributed to participation, and what kind of young subjectivities are formed within the Structured Dialogue on youth.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper uses Foucauldian discourse analysis for the analysis of the Structured Dialogue. As an example, the fourth Structured Dialogue work cycle (July 2014 – December 2015) that had the overall topic “Youth empowerment for political participation” was chosen for the analysis. The analysis comprises collection and interpretation of various written and spoken statements from several actors involved in the process and from the primary policy documents produced in that process.
Findings – The paper provides concrete insights about how discourse on the participation of young people within the Structured Dialogue construct youth as a subject capable and willing for participation and self-government, but impeded by certain institutional or social circumstances that hinder their political engagement. These problems are regarded as issues that need to be addressed via collaborative interventions. Structured Dialogue on youth constructs young people as a target of these interventions and frames their ‘appropriate’ conduct and responsibility to conceive and realise a solution for themselves.
Practical implications – The paper brings novel understanding of functioning of the Structured Dialogue on youth either as fully inclusive or, conversely, oppressive process, but rather as a meticulous governance mechanism where power is dispersed and discourse on participation formed as an attempt to actively constitute engaged young subjectivities.
Originality/value – This paper analyses the EU Structured Dialogue on youth using Foucauldian discourse analysis approach thereby focusing on critical examination of dialogue as a productive site of meticulous amalgamation of discourses, practices and techniques through which the modes of conduct of (young) collectivities and individuals are created.
Keywords: Youth, European Union, Structured Dialogue, Discourse, Participation