Sociology: Acquiring culture

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  • Created by: Emma
  • Created on: 15-04-13 13:10

Functionalist approach: Youth as a transition

Funtionalists believe that if something exists, then it must serve a purpose and have a function in society. They believe that youth cultures are not a form of resistance but are just a way of growing up and getting from childhood to adulthood smoothly.

Parsons says that youth culture is a rite of passage. It is a transition from childhood to adulthood and helps youths move away from the security of family and helps them more into adult life and the career world. Youth culture is the link between the two conflicting values.

Eisenstadt also looked at youth culture as a transition from childhood to adulthood. He believes that youth culture is a way of distinguishing yourself from your parents and moving away from the ascribed status you have as a child (a status automatically given to you) and gaining your own achieved status (a status that you have to work for) as an adult. He says youth culture helps youths deal with the stress of this transaction by providing them with a like minded peer group with similar styles and attittudes. Background is unimportant.

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Marxist approach: Subculture as a solution

Marxist believe that society is a constant conflict between the ruling classes. They try their best to completely control the working classes values. This is called hegemony. Hegemony is achieved by media and values taught in school.youth cultures are seen as a form of resistance against capitalism. Working class youth cultures are a response to a bleak future of low paid employment or even no employment altogether. Youth subcultures were looked at by the CCCS.

The marxists in the CCCS used a semiotic analysis to find the meaning of the style of dress from each subculture. They were trying to decode the meanings behind the clothing and music of the working class subcultures. However, the marxists who formed these semiotic analyses were only guessing at what the clothing meant. This is because there was no real way to tell that the clothing had any meaning at all. Without asking someone what their clothing meant clothes are just clothes. Someone may wear something just because they like it. Not because it symbolises something that they agree with.


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Marxist approach: CCCS

Hall and Jefferson are marxists in the CCCS. They argue that young working class people are the hardest to control as they have no or little responsibilities. H&J looked at the Teddy Boys who were a working class subculture. They wore bootlace ties which according to H&J were taken from characters in Western films who live off their wits. These are the sort of characters that the working class boys would aspire to be like. They also wore Edwardian jackets that were seen as mainly an upper class thing. This was to almost make a joke out of theire higher class social superiours.

Hebdige was also a part of the CCCS. He looked at the punk subculture which used bricolage (re-using ordinary objects in different ways to create new meanings). The punks were seen to reject anything orderly and were fed up with their economic and social situation. Punks also consister of college art students who liked the creativity and the energy of the punk culture. Hebdige referes to punks as the "blank generation" as these people had no connection apart from the fact that they reject everything.

 Cohen looked at the Skinhead subculture. They were an exaggerated version of the traditional working class values. cropped hair, braces, half mast jeans and doc martens. The subculture represented working class male toughness.

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Magic: Brake

Brake does not dissregard the view that youth culture is a form of resistance to capitalism. Although he does say that this resistance does nothing to alter the power and economic differences that cause the problems in the first place. Brake believes that this resistance is an illusion because it appears to provide a way out for the new generation but in the end they are going to end up like their parents in a similar economic and power situation with the same financial problems.

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Femenism and girl subcultures

Although females are generally ignored in the research if sociologists there are some who look at female subcultures. The term Invisiable girl is often used due to the lack of females included in research.

McRobbie and Garber say that the place of a young girl in youth culture relects her place in society. The range of activities avaliable to females in subcultures are far less compared to those of men. Females have greater parental control and are imposed upon concerning the appropriate sexual behaviour. The result of this is the bedroom culture of young girls. This is when girls gather together in their rooms to have privacy and talk about boys, sex and makeup.

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Criticisms of the CCCS

Cohen says that the apporach completely ignores middle class youth because according to the apporach, middle class youths do not face the same problems as the lower class.

Cohen believes that these writers wanted to find some sort of resistance in the working class style and because they were looking for this resistance, their views are biased. This is because they therefore interpreted the style in a way that supported their political view.

McRobbie criticised the CCCS for ignoring girls subcultures. Arguing that they are very different to boys subcultures in content and style and do not fit into the framework of the conflict approach.

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Postmodern Youth cultures

Postmodernism challenges sociology by arguing that the social phenomena is impossible because, according to Bauman, there is no structure to the world as it is too complex and confusing to understand. They do not believe that it is a form of resistance they believe that the rise in affluent young caused the youth to just want to enjoy the leisure industry.

Widdicombe and Wooffitt encouraged people to talk openly about their experiences and about their clothes without enforcing any sort of structure or false meanings on them. They argued that youth cultures dont actually have any fixed meanings about their style.

Maffesoli suggested that youth subcultures have been replaced with neo-tribes. This term describes a range of groups which all have a common interest (shared ethic) for example, warmth and companionship. They are based on elective sociality (based on the desire to be together). The groups all meet simply for warmth and compassion. Social class, gender, ethnicity and resistance are not important.

Gilroy believes that ethnic minority groups are people who leave their origin but still have links to their origin but also deal with the present circumstances. So the groups are generally open.

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Terms 1

Socialisation - Is the way we are taught what is right and wrong according to societies norms and values as a child. There are two major agencies of socialisation: Primary and secondary. Primary - Is learning from the family. This happens before a child starts school. Their parents and siblings and other family members as well as family friends show the child what is socially acceptable. They can do this through sanctions as well as learning from copying role models. Secondary - Is when a child starts school and they begin to learn from people outside of the family. for example teachers. However primary socialisation can also come from religion, media and peer group.

Social control - Is the way that society ensures conformity to its norms and values. It can be done informally by peer opinions or force of public. It call also be done formally by the police. There are negative sanctions to punish those who break the law and also positive policies which are meant to encourage people to conform voluntarily. Functionalists believe social control is maintained by socialising everyone into the same norms and values whereas marxists believe that social control is kept by the working class being controlled by the upper classes. They do this by passing on false ideas through the media. For example "if you buy this, you'll be happy" These ideas prevent us from rebelling so therefore act as a form of social control.

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Terms 2

Sanctions - Are ways of enforcing a social norm positively or negatively. A formal negative sanction could be the law which could lead to someone being put in prison if they break it. An informal negative saction could be a dirty look from a neighbour or anyone. A formal positive sanction could be getting knighted and an informal positive could be a high five or more pocket money.

Social change - Refers to either a change in the social structure such as changing from capitalism to communism, a change in social institutions such as a two parent family to the single parent family, a change in social behaviour like fewer people getting married and also a change in social relations such as bosses and workers who used to be family working together. Functionalists believe that this change can be on different levels. It can be as small as only affecting groups within ones immediate environment (micro) or as big as effecting economic and educational systems (macro). Marxists believe that social change will occur through a revolution where capitalism will change to communism.

Conflict - In sociology conflict is used to describe the difference in opinion between groups in society. It suggests that there is hostility and even violence in social life. Society is divided into sections of interests that compete. E.g. class, race and gender.

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Terms 3

Consensus - Is general agreement. It is also the agreement of beliefs and sentiments. Consensus usually refers to functionalists who think that majority of people in society agree on the norms and values and is based on co-operation rather than conflict. This consensus is maintained through primary and secondary socialisation.

Social construction - Is something that is created by society rather than something that naturally occurs. For example in terms of identity it refers to how the society that the person lives in has affected their identity. For example a boy here may include being a football fan as part of their identity whereas a boy grom Greenland may not.

Culture - Is the whole way of life for a group of people. It includes language, dress, music, food, celebrations etc. There are different forms of culture. For example high culture which is museums and opera or popular culture which includes football and fish and chips.

Subculture - Is a group within society whose members share common values and have similar behaviour patterns which are different from mainstrean culture. The subculture can be based around social characteristics such as ethnicity or style like punk or raver.

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Terms 4

Identity - Is a sense of self which we usually develop as a child grows up and becomes an idividual. We usually form it during the socialisation process (primary and secondary). It can include our gender, race, class, where we live, what we wear and also our music taste. Marxists believe that our identity is shaped by social class. Femeninsts believe that gender and gender roles shape our identity. Postmodernists believe that we have endless choice of who we are and that gender, race and class no longer decide for us.

Norms and Values - Norms are the social rules by which we live that define what is expected of an individual. They are measures of what is seen as normal in society and are passed on through primary and secondary socialisation. Norms differ over time and place. Values are the importance a group or society place on something.

Status - Is the label that someone has. There are two types of status: Ascribed, which is the status that is automatically given to you from birth such as son. Achieved is the status that you gain later on in life after entering the working world. For example Boss or employee.

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Terms 5

Social inequality - Is the differences that people may encounter according to their class, gender, race, disability or age. It implies that these groups are somewhat unequal for example they might get lower pay than others. Functionalists believe that inequality is fair because everyone had the same chance to begin with and it is down to how hard they work. Gender roles are natural because women should be in the home while men go to work. Marxists believe that inequality is the result of the capitalist system and the inequality is unfair. Feminists believe that the biggest form of social inequality is between men and women. Women are being paid less that their male counterparts and are generally less likely to be promoted.

Cultural transmission - A way of socialisation. Passing on values through one generation to the next.

Nature vs Nurture - Controversy over whether human intelligence and behaviour are determined by biological reasons or if they are due to the socialisation of people.

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Terms 6

Social structure - A permanent society that would still function if one member died. The individual members all have their own characteristics but when together they have an entirely new characteristic. Some examples of a structure could be a family, the education system or language. Language is made up of words that when placed together in a sentence create a whole new meaning. This is sort of like a social structure.

Social roles - A role or place that you have in society what comes individual with rights and obligations that you are expected to live by.

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This a good summary of youth cultures clearly identifying the important aspects including all the relevant theories as well as the various theoretical perspectives and their explanation of youth cultures. This also contains some extremely useful terminology.

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