Unemployment and the transformation of uncertainty in youth transitions in the New West
Institute of Sociology University of Bremen Bremen, Germany
Uncertainty is one of the key features of social change in Eastern Europe after the collapse of communism. Many normality and continuity expectations that had been available for decades became questionable and problematic. The transition of young people to working life constitutes such an area of uncertainty. Here, the introduction of unemployment as a new optional outcome of the transition replaced the previously available certainty of getting a job of any kind. Unemployment became a critical and probable option in people's lives. At the same time, the freedom to chose and opt out of certain pathways redefined the landscape of life chances in which post-communist youth identities evolve. Against this background the paper reflects the ambivalence of uncertainties in youth transitions first empirically, and then conceptually. The empirical discussion introduces a young school drop out from Lithuania. It describes how he establishes an alternative way of life by challenging conventional ways of growing up and by utilising and reproducing uncertainty in a constructive way. In a second step the paper reflects the case conceptually as a representative of the youth transition pattern of liberation, one of three patterns identified in the underlying project. All of these patterns are associated with distinct ways of dealing with the uncertainties related to post-communist unemployment. Finally, the findings are assessed against the background of ongoing debates of social change and uncertainty both within and without youth research.