Topic 8: Youth cultures and class

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  • Created by: zoolouise
  • Created on: 01-05-16 10:13

Social class and gang cultures

Albert Cohen stated that because working-class boys couldn't gain status from traditional routes to social sucess, they sought alternative routes through deviance and crime. Howard Becker said that working-class boys were victimised by the police and legal system leaving them labelled as criminal. They turned to gang culture for their identity. Middle-class children were treated leniently, and any misbehaviour was seen as acceptable 'high spirits'.

Walter B Miller suggested that deviant youth subcultures arise as the working and middle-class cultures have different norms and values. Workinglcass focal concerns include:

  • Toughness which can manfiest itself through violence
  • Smartness, so people try to outwit others through stealing in clever awys
  • Excitement, so people look for thrills and adventure

These views therefore located the development of youth culture and gang culture as being working class in origin

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The CCCS was established in the early 1960s, it was a politically and socially radical approach to the study of sociology and popular culture in Britain. A wide variery of research was conducted, mostly based on Marxism, feminism and critical theory of society. Significant studies that emerged:

  • Teddy boys - Hall and Jefferson argued that they're working-class boys who were excluded from the new wealth of the country in the post-war era. They aped the styles of wealthy people by adopting fashions of the middle class of a previous historical era
  • Skinheads - Cohen and Clarke argued that skinheads were an exaggerated attempt to recover traditional working-class identity as it was disappearing with the industrial changes. Style was based on working clothes and resented those who felt threatened in the community.
  • Punk - Hebdige said punk was a form of resistance to capitalism, set out to shock mainstream society. Punk was short-lived as commerical companies adopted punk style so young people moved on quickly.
  • Middle-class youth culture - Brake (1977) found that hippies were mostly middle-class students who lived on benefits or student grants. Whilst claiming to be anti-capitalist, they spent a great deal on travel, expensive audio equipment and street drugs.
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Subculture and choice

Postmodernists claim that the culture of young people is often a matter of personal choice:

  • Hetherington found New Age travellers to be from a variety of class backgrounds. Bennett and Hetherington claim that young people opt for lifestyles and that class is not a dynamic.
  • Reimer argues that the central feature of most youth cultures is the search for fun and excitement, not class

Recent findings

McCulloch (2007) argued that youth cultures are class based. Interviews with young people suggest that young people's membership of subcultural groupings is largely determined by social class, if only because of their existing friendship networks.

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