Social surfing as a model of youth lifestyle




way of life and lifestyle, path dependency, social surfing, liquid reality, lifestyle flexibilization


Inspired by Z. Bauman’s ideas this empirical study attempts to analyze the structure and logic of a way of life corresponding to the “liquid modernity” emerging both in Western countries and modern Russia. It is described by the metaphor of social surfing. One of the key characteristics of this way of life, mainly typical for young people, is overcoming the effect of social inertia (individual path dependency) in all spheres: education, labor market, professional activities, housing strategy, leisure, and private life. Following the logic of Grounded Theory and using a series of biographical semi-structured interviews with residents of large cities, mostly aged 17 to 35 years, the author constructs a model of social surfing as a way of life. The theoretical sample primarily consists of informants demonstrating the elements of the lifestyle under consideration (social surfers). Such a nature of the sample precludes generalizations applicable to the entire Russian youth.
The social surfing model consists of two main blocks: (a) the logic of social surfing in different spheres of life, and (b) the factors that increase the probability of choosing such a lifestyle. The model of social surfing includes several levels that permeate all spheres: 1) macro-level institutional shifts (flexibilization of structures), 2) patterns of social surfers’ practices, and 3) surfer’s personal characteristics.

Author Biography

Vladimir I. Ilyin, St. Petersburg University

  • St. Petersburg University, St. Petersburg, Russia
    • Dr. Sci. (Soc.), Professor of Sociology
  • Sociological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, Russia
    • Felow Researcher