The city is not a concrete jungle. It is a human zoo.

----Desmond Morris


To study a modern youth culture in Europe is a task that requires a clear understanding of the identity influences and integration in the twenty-first century, and its significance in the lives of the adolescent population.  The question of identity and integration often discussed in different contexts are often interrelated and compliment each other, and have been the subject of passionate debate in the present European Union.  The study of cultural influences in a “larger EU perspective” has taken on a new surge among scholars, not only on economic and political integration.

The wider expanding youth culture seen today has taken on prime importance for cultural studies, and for European Integration studies, bringing culture into the sphere of European Union identity formation.  This is done through several area analyses: civil society formation, democratic “values” promoted by the European Union and economic consumer culture among the youth.  This essay tries to takes on the unduly task of exploring the difficulties and influences of national and/or European identity formation, and the sway of European cultural policy for a widening integration in the mist of a globalizing world, expressed through cultural exchange and primarily through the international language of music, at the Sziget (Island) Festival, in Budapest, Hungary. 

Some might call the present time “postmodern”, but I refrain from using this term for it implies that modernity has somehow ended to be taken over by whatever follows, without specifically indentifying what that means for the population.  “Modern phenomena” is often too hard to define, too diverse and unique to fit into any category, and explanation seems all the more unattainable and complicated.  “Contemporarily” is more practical for the understanding of “present” cultural initiatives, however, it does little to clarify circumstances and warrant understandings of inimitable events.  The use of “modern” in this essay will simply imply something "of the now", and will be accompanied by distinct terms, such as the “modern youth culture”.  It becomes apparent that  a very new and unique way of incorporating youth culture into integration theory is needed.  As a result mostly empirical and primary evidence will be used to determine the outcome, based on surveys, opinion polls and tangible facts as well as the authors’ personal experiences, identified by *. 

The much contested term that is “culture”, for lack of a better word, is used to describe every sphere of life, from the process of intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic development, to an explanation of the common spirit.  Most tend to think of Culture as an artistic activity, but it also seeps into social order and space.[1]  Political culture or cultural politics, popular culture, mass culture or culture of the masses, and global culture are just some of the uses culture has had to contend with, it is used to explain art history, appropriation and repatriation; as well as political uses of legitimacy and nationalism, to outright manipulation and propaganda.

“European Culture” as a term has been used in many forms over the centuries often to exclude and categorize. Gigi Bradford writes that “one person’s cultural exchange is another’s imperialism.”[2]  While some feel that the European Union should have little or no part in cultural activities, the European Union seeks to assert a primary role in cultural activities for its integration ambitions.  It is quite obvious that culture and history can form a strong sense of identity, and the European Union through its Cultural Policy has a stake in reaching out through culture, beyond the economic and political scale.  Some argue that it is to increase their legitimacy in an ever powerful supranational body that is the European Union.  Others view it as a natural progression of time and circumstances, and history.

Cultural expression and activities can influence ideas and values but also difference and alienation.  Cultural identities in most respects have taken on the later, but the European Europe seeks a shift .  Along with new forms of art, music and dance, new ideas about how one should think, act and behave has in  history has spurred political oppression in the Central/Eastern European Region and Globalizing influences in the South/West Europe.  Europe has been known to question extreme socialist ideas as well as capitalist ones, from opposing points of view.  So while ideas emerge from different contemporary historical pasts, acceptance (in most instances) seem to lie in a liberalist democratic middle ground, on both sides. 

European integration is possible through the use of identity formations that already exists and which take similar paths for better economic and political understanding.  The civil society “gap” has often been criticized as one of the barriers to integration.  Looking into a modern youth cultural phenomena, one can grasp a better understanding of youth interactaction, their perceptions about European realities and the possibilities for identity formation. The political-economy has always had a significant role in cultural formation based on major historical events, one of which is an enlarged Europe, a landmark and tribute to democratic governance and peaceful cooperation in a land known for its conflicts.  The young generation represent the future of European Union success, their participation and knowledge can significantly impact the success of integration. 

            Integration could hardly be possible in any other part of the world, among such a vast number of member states and cultures, but the European Union seeks to bring its citizens together through the exchange of ideas and debates. The newer youth venues discuss issues which are of international concern rather then nation specific, and Europe plays a major role in the debate. The Sziget Festival as a multi-national peaceful celebration of humanity and entrainment would not be possible without the European Union and its culturally invested programs, without the historical divisions that is East and West, without a changing youth culture supported by educational and travel policies of the European Union, without democratic and economic value sharing and implementation, and without the cooperation of the Region. These five things in combination contribute to a European Integration that is unique to the European space and its citizens. 

[1] Raymond Williams and his four explanation of culture.

[2] Bradford, Gigi. “‘Introduction’ to Defining Culture and Cultural Policy” in Gigi Bradford, Michael Gary and Glenn Wallach’s (eds.) The Politics of Culture: Policy Perspectives for Individuals, Institutions and Communities. New York: The New York Pres, 2000, pp. 11-19.

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