Contesting Boomageddon? Journal of Sociology special issue, 2018

Sue Malta, National Ageing Research Institute and Swinburne University:  In June 2016 the Ageing and Sociology Thematic Group under the direction of Cassie Curryer put in a bid for the 2018 special issue of the Journal of Sociology, and we are thrilled to say our bid was successful. The title of the special issue – Contesting Boomageddon? Identity, politics, and economy in the global milieu – reflects our focus as researchers in ageing, namely that of contesting the paradigm of ageing as negativity, decline and dependency, a biological phenomenon of little significance to general sociology.

The special issue co-editors, Cassie Curryer, Michael Fine and Sue Malta, aim to stimulate academic discussion and innovative theoretical development within sociological ageing research. The issue covers a wide range of themes and is drawn from contributions from the academic community and members of the TASA Ageing and Sociology Thematic Group. Expressions of interest have already been received from a number of authors and the issue promises to be both dynamic and interesting!

The issue will explore ageing within social, economic, and globalised contexts. The exploration will draw on political economic theory, which has traditionally located older age and late life inequality within socio-economic structures, together with theories of social construction, the body and identity. These include the social construction of old age dependency and the third and fourth ages, employment participation and labour restructuring, pension and welfare reform, wealth and assets, and the socio-political construction of retirement as a key transitional phase within the life course. Political economic theorists have argued that retirement processes themselves superimpose reduced social status and access to resources. But is it time for a reinvention of political economic theory? Can traditional theories of ageing still hold hope for engaging with and overcoming inequality in a world that is increasingly complex and uncertain? Processes such as individualisation and risk suggest that the experience of ageing may be becoming less prescribed by socio-economic class and gender, as they have previously been conceptualised, and more open to influences of globalisation and neoliberalism, and the opportunities and challenges posed by greater longevity, longer working lives, and improved health technologies. Within contemporary contexts of population ageing, economic austerity and uncertainty, older people have been thrust from positions of welfare dependency to active consumers and co-producers of aged care, health, financial, and housing markets. At the same time, there is greater polarisation of wealth and inequality, with housing – and particularly home ownership – arising as a key site of old age inequality. This special issue on ageing seeks to explore ageing within contemporary social, economic, and globalised contexts and to stimulate theoretical discussion within sociological ageing research.

We look forward to bringing this special issue to fruition. The submitted papers will also provide the basis for a forthcoming symposium and further expressions of interest are invited.

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