Since the collapse of the communist regime in the former Czechoslovakia in 1989, there has been an increasing recognition that the experience of young people in the Czech Republic offers a useful indicator of changing social, cultural and political trends. Although drawing upon theories of risk and individualization, social scientific research on the “post-revolutionary” Czech generation has tended to focus on unemployment, education, generational conflict, gender, ethnicity, demographic behaviour and changing values. Young people’s experience of consumption as a response to social transformation has not been given sufficient attention and is usually confined to the domains of media representation and marketing. Any conception of young consumers in the Czech Republic tends to dismiss them as a materialistic, hedonistic, egocentric and conformist generation. This article challenges these stereotypes arguing that an empirically informed understanding of young people´s relationship to consumption provides a means of understanding the social and cultural implications of post-socialist transitions. Drawing on a series of focus groups and two small semi-structured interviews with young people aged between 15 and 27, we analyse young people’s experience of consumption in the Czech Republic, as a means by which contemporary youth actively navigate their way through a life experience that appears to offer choice and yet simultaneously constrains it. The notion of the ‘mainstream’ offers a particularly useful means of understanding the conflicting nature of young people’s choices in a risk society in extremis whilst providing an alternative approach which challenges many of the assumptions underpinning the sociology of youth’s conception of consumption.
- youth culture