This article can be found in the current issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs regarding Activist Scholarship.
The onslaught of neoliberal policies, practices, and thinking has resulted in the privatization of many public goods and services, a reframing of systemic inequities as individual failings, and a weakened capacity for collective action. Together, these trends have contributed to growing inequality in the U.S. However, there is strong resistance, most of it coming from young people. This article explores the use of social justice frameworks in youth activism. I argue that social justice frameworks can be powerful tools for countering these neoliberal trends. Social justice frameworks provide a vehicle for connecting seemingly disparate issues, policies, and institutions, thereby replacing single issue politics with broader agendas. They also provide alternative explanations of how the world works, thus challenging the narratives espoused by proponents of neoliberalism. Finally, the emphasis on intersectionality helps bridge barriers such as race, class, and gender. Through case studies of youth activism, I illustrate what these approaches look like in practice, some of the challenges and how to address them, and the critical role of adult allies.