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This article begins by identifying how 'youth' are typically identified as inferior to adults and a section of the population that is intrinsically problematic and thus needing close management (Johns, 2003 ). This observation points to a dissonance between the popular narratives about our respect of young people on the one hand, and the reality that young people experience on the other. Popular accounts that tell how we have advanced in our attitudes and treatment of 'youth' continue in a policy context where in fact too many young people are systematically exploited, abused and discriminated against. The sustained poor treatment of this section of the population raises questions for those interested in policy, and youth policy in particular. Amongst these questions is: what can be done to prevent policies and practices that are harmful and which also fail to provide an environment in which young people can thrive as human beings? In this article attention is also given to liberalism and how it contributes to poor policy outcomes for young people. I argue for a departure from certain liberal assumptions that continue to inform youth policy making. To create this departure I draw on the work of Kant's moral thought and 'developmental ethics' produced by Nussbaum ( 2003 ) and Sen ( 1992 ) and suggest that a developmental ethic approach needs to be connected to an over-arching principle, that is, Kant's 'categorical imperative'.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2005

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