It’s been lovely to read some of the reviews of our book. Here’s some extracts from ones we’ve spotted so far.
“Mendick et al.’s new book presents a comprehensive, empirically rich, and timely examination of the ways that celebrity mediates young people’s lives and transitions into adulthood at a time of unprecedented socio-economic uncertainty. Continuing a tradition of youth centred research based in ‘critical respect’ (Gill 2007), and building upon two years of fieldwork with 148 young people in England, the authors consider young people’s understandings of youth, work, authenticity, success, happiness, money, and fame in relation to their own lives and those of celebrities. In doing so, the book addresses three central questions: What kind of futures do young people imagine for themselves? What is required of them in the process of achieving these futures? How are inequalities embedded and reproduced within these futures?
“Through their emphasis on young people’s voices and lived experience throughout Celebrity, Aspiration and Contemporary Youth, the authors challenge dominant policy and media discourses about celebrity and youth, which often dismiss celebrity as antithetical to aspiration or assume that young people are passive and uncritical victims of celebrity and celebrity culture. Rather, they offer a nuanced insight into the ways that celebrity mediates young people’s sense-making practices, aspirations, and transitions in an era of neoliberal austerity. In doing so, they have expanded our understandings of the ways in which young people negotiate, evaluate, and, at times, resist, the neoliberal logics and regulatory discourses that govern their subjectivities, aspirations, and imagined futures. Mendick et al. have produced a comprehensive, accessible, and timely book that would be suitable for undergraduate and postgraduate students, sociologists of youth and education, and researchers working more broadly in celebrity studies, media and cultural studies, and feminist and gender studies.” (Briony Hannell, Celebrity Studies)
“The chapters proceed as sort-of couplets: Work and Authenticity (Chapters 3 and 4); Success and Happiness (Chapters 5 and 6); and Money and Fame (Chapters 7 and 8). There is some repetition of key arguments within these couplets; however, they work well in this way and ideas introduced in one are usefully extended and elaborated at the second stage. The rich data and innovative methodologies make this book an engaging and accessible read. I was absorbed by the exchanges between participants, particularly around gender, deservingness and authenticity, and the moments of resistance and subversion that manifested alongside more tightly policed articulations of success, hard work and happiness. Such ideas about happiness and success were not necessarily about wealth, although there were some references to footballers and millionaires. Success and happiness, and crucially being viewed as authentically successful and happy, was framed as not ‘selling out’ or settling for mediocre, humdrum lives. Participants talked about being ‘stuck in well paid alright jobs’ as worse-case scenarios, and celebrities, such as reality television star Katie Price, as having success without any passion or discernible talent. Thus, authenticity emerges as a key principle of austere meritocracy and of successful futures, even in the face of rising precarious work and a dearth of ‘fulfilling’ jobs.
“Although they might have been inclined to let this rich body of empirical data ‘do the talking’, Celebrity, Aspiration and Contemporary Youth is tightly organised around a clear and robust theoretical framework that offers new tools for sociologists of youth and education. Thus, this book is not just about deciphering whether young people are future oriented, planners or live-in-the-nowers; rather, it is concerned with how each of these dispositions and orientations is underpinned and, very often, constricted by an increasingly narrow script about who and what is deserving of happiness and success. The authors rightly highlight the value of this text for moving sociological studies of youth experiences forward and for understanding the complex relationship between structure and agency in a context of political instability and rising populism (see Postscript). This notwithstanding, their aim that the book will ‘have life and meaning outside academia’ (p. 167) will most certainly be achieved. The use of celebrity case studies to hook into broad areas, such as youth for example, bring something new to a field that has been re-written and re-moulded for decades, often making it quite dry and somewhat predictable. This is not the case in this volume; through the example of child-star Justin Bieber, the age-old notion that young people represent both the cause and cure of all societal ills is refreshed and made human, with all the complexities and anxieties that young people must negotiate brought to the fore.” (Kirsty Finn, The British Journal of Sociology of Education)
“Their book is an exceptional interdisciplinary study and a must read for teachers, parents, and scholars specialising in education, celebrity studies, fan studies, sociology, and other fields. Instead of criticising teenagers and their obsession with celebrities and social media, the authors try to understand young people, their aspirations and problems, a task that can be challenging but rewarding.” (Mateusz Świetlicki, International Research Society for Children’s Literature)
“This book is successful in empirically demonstrating the cultural thinking of younger people about the tensions between structure and agency. While many serious thinkers disregard celebrity culture as trivial, the authors recognize that it is unwise to do so, as so many individuals globally are immersed in it. This study does an excellent job of showing what is often missed, such as contemporary youths’ striving to succeed and their inner lives.
“Something that stands out in this analysis and the conversations of the interviewees is that they are at times very aware of the unfairness of the position that society has put them in. This work would have benefited from a framework of analysis that looked at the discourse in terms of hegemony. The authors do articulate this through what they have called a ‘public narrative of austerity [that] has relied upon establishing a “common sense”’ (Mendick et al., 2018: 9), which centres personal responsibility at the expense of a more institutional, structural explanation. However, the interview subjects only opaquely grasp this. Gramsci (1971) explained this phenomenon perfectly when he spoke of the dominant ideology of subjects in a capitalist society as accepting this condition as natural and inevitable. The young people here are close to understanding the way they are being exploited, that the game is unwinnable except for a few; to look at the way they think through the system is to see a chance that they will redefine it.” (Nickie Michaud Wild, Cultural Sociology)
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