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  • Created on: 18-01-15 18:52

1: Youth & Moral panics

- Youth is a category that interlinks with race, class, gender, amongst others
- Young people characterised by social practices involving space, consumption and leisure
- Symbolic significance of youth as a 'barometer of social change' shapes the way society deals with young people
- Youth often a site on which moral boundaries are drawn
- How does society characterise young people as 'rule breakers' or 'deviants'?
- Central role of the media in this relationship
- Work of Cohen: Example of how moral panics shape understandings and treatment of youth

Labelling theory

- Becker (1963): Studied deviant groups (marijuana users and Chicago dance musicians)
- He rejected the idea of deviance as an objective state- there are no absolute moral values

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- Delinquency is not something inherent with a particular activity:
1) People break rules all the time without being labelled as deviant
2) People can be labelled as deviant without having broken any rules
- To be labelled as an outsider says more about society's reaction to certain sorts of behaviour than the original action
- Becker is important because he is the first theorist to look at who makes the rules rather than who breaks them
- He recognised that your prospects of being labelled as deviant (or of deflecting such labels) depended upon wider power relations
- The process of labelling occurs through 'moral entrepreneurs'
- 'Deviants' come to 'self-identify' with their label (e.g. marijuana smokers come to see themselves as outsiders) 
- Deviance must be understood as the result of social processes whereby certain activities become defined as deviant

- According to Becker:
1) Social groups create deviance by making the rules for what they themselves believe constitute as deviance
2) By applying those rules to particular people and labelling them as outsiders, the deviant is one to whom the label has been successfully applied
3) Deviant behaviour is behaviour that people so label

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Moral Panics

Cohen studied 'Mods and Rockers' 1960s youth culture
- He stated that:
1) Societies appear to subject, every now and then, to periods of moral panic
2) A condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests

- Moral entrepreneurs reacted to the traditional w/c pastime of going go coastal resorts for bank holidays
- Created a moral panic concerning 'gang warfare' and running battles between Mods & Rockers
- Cohen wanted to illustrate how moral panics were intimately connected to social power structures
- In particular between relatively weak (youth) and powerful (state/social control) groups
- Examined both:
1) Events themselves
2) The reactions of various moral entrepreneurs (police, government etc.)
- 1964-67: Full-scale moral panic develops in which Mods/Rockers are viewed as morally corrupt
- In turn, they are deemed reflective of the wider moral degeneration of British society

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Shaping a moral panic

- A few isolated events are turned into a coherent panic through 3 key ingredients added by the media and other moral entrepreneurs:

1) Exaggeration/over-reporting
- E.g. sensationalist headlines
- Events reported as worse than they actually were ('**** of wanton destruction' etc.)

2) Prediction of events
- Assumption that the event being reported on is bound to take place agin
- 'We'll be ready for them next time'
- Creates a momentum

3) Symbolism
- Certain symbols would be singled out and could then be used to identify the folk devil in question
- Symbol then carries more significance than the person wearing it
- Symbols simplify the people and the events

Defining a moral panic
- Moral panics must engage with public fears/anxieties
- If they do not, they will not take hold
- This indicates that the 'problem' of the moral panic is never the real problem, but a reflection of wider issues
- Deviancy amplification: A process of amplification must occur:
1) The progressive elaboration/exaggeration merge concerns and images into one identifiable issue
2) But this makes the 'problem' worse as it results in deviancy amplification

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Issues of power

- Young people are a relatively powerless social group through whom social/moral concerns are played out
- Moral panics are vehicles of this process and serve explicitly vested interests


- Clarke: Labelling assumes the labelled are passive, but they actively negotiate their potential labels

- Marxist critics (e.g. Hall): Labelling assumes a pluralist notion of power, but should emphasise the power of the ruling class
- Hall et al.: Points to the class/racial bases of the mugging moral panic

- McRobbie & Thornton: Traditional model of moral panic difficult to sustain in a multi-mediated world of sophisticated media users. Needs to be 're-thought' for a postmodern age.


- Whatever the usefulness of the concept, moral panics of some form clearly take place, and focus on youth more than any other social group 
- This reflects the symbolic importance of youth
- Cohen's key points: A moral panic is not simply a media exaggeration of an event. It:
1) Is characterised by a process of amplification
- Moral panic turns a series of isolated events into a coherent whole
- Leads to 'deviancy amplification'
2) Must reflect more deep rooted concerns
3) Will normally suit the political interests of the moral entrepreneurs who generate the moral panic 

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2: Labelling drug takers

- Deviance is not something inherent in a given act
- It is a quality which is associated with particular forms of behaviour once it has been labelled as such
- Official approach emphasises harm/the need to protect
- However, issues of 'harm' are rarely black and white
- E.G. News segment in 2008: All the illnesses/misery/death associated with heroin are the result not of the drug itself, but of the greedy black market criminals it is sold through as the result of the war on drugs

Young (1973), The Social Meaning of Drug Use

- There is nothing inherently wrong with drug-taking
- But taking certain drugs in certain societies resulted in being labelled as deviant
- Drug use tends to be labelled as deviant when carried out for short-term, non-productive or hedonistic reasons
- If a person lives by a code of conduct which forbids certain pleasures, which involves the deferring of gratification in certain areas, it is hardly surprising that he will react strong against those whom he sees to be taking short cuts

'Othering' illegal drug use

- Both causes/effects of illicit drug use are seen as abnormal
- Cause: psycho-biological approaches locate various problems within the individual which leads them to drug abuse
- Effect: effects of drug use position users outside of 'normal' society

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Normalisation of recreational drug use amongst you

Parker et al. - Based on 5 year longitudinal study in North-West England
- Youth drug use previously associated with youth subcultures, but is not becoming more central
- Use of cannabis and 'dance drugs' ae becoming more common and more accepted amongst young people from diverse backgrounds
- Argument rests on changes in both behaviour and attitudes of young people

Normalisation thesis- 6 components

1) Drug availability- 91% of young people have received drug offers
2) Trying a drug- 64% of 19 year olds had tried at least one illicit drug
3) Regular drug use- approximately 1/4 become regular uses
4) Being drug wise- young people know about drugs/regard drug use as a personal choice
5) Future intentions- drug use not confined to adolescence but continues into 20s
6) Cultural accomodation of the illicit- illicit drug use becomes an 'ordinary' component of young people's lives alongside other aspects of everyday life

Parker et al. (1998)
- British youth culture has accommodated and perhaps facilitated recreational drug use in 2 ways:
1) What is acceptable for young people to do
2) Absorbing/accomodating the language/imagery of drugs via the fashion, media, music and drink industries which thrive on youth markets

Theoretical components of the normalisation thesis
1) Living in a 'risk society': youth transitions in late modernity
- Changes that have taken place in young people's lives more generally have made them more at home with risk-taking
2) Postmodernism and consumer culture
- In a fully-developed consumer culture, drugs/the experiences they create could be seen as something simply to be consumed 

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1) Shiner & Newburn
- Argue that changes in young people's drug behaviours/attitudes have been exaggerated
a) Extent/frequency of drug use: Parker et al. gloss over some deficiences in their data- only 5% appear to have tried 'dance drugs'
b) Attitudes- Parker et al. confuse behaviour & attitudes- many young people, including those who have used drugs, subscribe to normative values rather than being 'laissez-faire'; process of peer selection reinforces norms amongst non-users

2) MacDonald & Marsh (2002)
- Whilst they found relatively large proportions of young people involved in recreational/problematic drug use (e.g. heroin), there remained a large group that proclaimed complete non-involvement in drug use of any sort, at any time
- Typically, this group displayed wholly anti-drug sentiments, personally distancing themselves from their use and other users

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3: Emergence of the teenage consumer

- Post-war period of affluence provides young people with disposable income in emergent consumer society
- Development of youth 'market segment'
- But there were fears that consumption was corrupting youth

Subculture: the meaning of style
- Sociologists at the CCCS at University of Birmingham interpreted youth subcultures from a 'class' standpoint
- Subcultures were stylised forms of class resistance on the part of w/c youth
- They represented the young w/c' attempts to come to terms with the problems of post-War British society
- Spectacular styles such as the Mod & Punk were attempts to resolve the contradictory experiences of w/c young people's lives

Resolution of class contradictions
Clothes and music carried a variety of symbolic meanings
- Problems or contradictions were 'resolved' through these
- The Mod attempted to compensate for mundanity of everday life
- Did this by exercising complete domination over his private estate- his appearance/choice of leisure pursuits

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- CCCS used Gramsci's concept of hegemony, referring to the way a ruling class was able to maintain power through consent rather than force
- Subcultural style showed that youth were subverting dominant order through the dvelopment of their own cultural vocabulary and the transformation of meanings, rejecting m/c, dominant forms of culture
- Levi-Strauss: Used 'bricolage' to explain how youth subcultures were able to 'subvert' the meaning of certain cultural symbols and then imbue them with new meanings
- John Clarke:
1) Punks were nothing if not consistent
2) There was a homological relation between the trashy cut-up clothes/spiky hair, the spitting, the vomiting, frantically driven music etc.

Critique- 'gaps' in subcultural theory

1) Gender
- McRobbie: Girls were absent, more likely to be found in 'bedroom culture'
2) Race/ethnicity
- CCCS focused on young white men
- Black culture only appeared when as a 'resource'
3) 'Normal' youth
- Clarke: CCCS assumed false split between authentic subcultural youth on one hand, and the incorporated mass of w/c youth on the other
- But even school children subverted dominant meanings
- Clarke raises the question of how far we can distinguish between 'subcultural' and 'straight'

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Postsubcultural Theory

- Differs from subcultural theory in:
1) Relationship it envisages between youth culture & style
2) Relationship between the media and youth subcultures
3) Nature of youth 'sociation' (how and for what reason young people get together) in contemporary society

1) The relationship between youth culture and style
- In CCCS work, style was read for its symbolic significance only (how it reflected relationship to dominant culture)
- Postsubculturalism envisages consumption as creative process of youth style distinction
- 'Lifestyle': offers alternative interpretation of how individual entitities are constructed/played out
- Places less importance on structural factors such as class, and more emphasis on personal choice

1) Relationship of the media to youth subculture
- CCCS work addresses medi only 'after' the event of subculture
- E.g. the role of commercialising a subcultural form
- Postsubculturalism has more complex definition of media
- Envisages the media as engaging in subcultural formation and development
a) Micro media (flyers, pirate radios etc.)
b) Niche media (the music, hip lifestyle press)
c) Mass media (tabloids, top of the pops etc.)
- She argues that careful marketing and creating just the right amount of media exposure are essential to success of subcultural scenes

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'Neo tribes'

3) The nature of youth sociation in late modern society
- CCCS notion of a youth 'subculture' implies the existence of a coherent sub-unit of society with some 'fixed' identity homologically reflected in its style
- Does this adequately express the nature of youth sociation today?
- Bennett points to constant raiding/borrowing from past styles in a permanent process of style-creation
- This reflects young people's unstable and shifting cultural affiliations
- Notion of 'tribus' used by Bennett to replace 'subculture'
- 'Tribes' or 'Neo-tribes' are small-scale social configurations not located in class
- Are highlyusntable because individual members of the group do not aim to keep up their community
- Would rather satisfy their individual needs which are affected via the group

Muggleton's 'ideal type'
- Do not see selves in collective terms
- No recognition of subcultural/conventional divide
- Transient attachment to any one style which weakens boundaries between different subcultures and precluded oppositional reactions to other groups
- Celebrate style, fashion and media rather than seeing affiliation as political gesture of resistance


- The notion that young people are free to construct any identity they wish through their consumption, and to affiliate themselves with anything they like (regardless of their class, gender, ethnicity or sexuality) is a very nice one, but is it realistic?

- Is consumption simply 'empowering'? 

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