Introduction

Ken Gelder
THE FIELD OF SUBCULTURAL

STUDIES

S

UB C U L T U RES

ARE

G R 0 UPS

0 F P EO P L E that through

are in some way repreinterests and

sented as non-normative

and/or marginal

their particular

ractices, through sent

what they are, what they do and where they do it. They may repin this way, since subcultures are usually well aware of their difthem, and so on. But they will the term 'subthem, exploiting

themselves

• rences, bemoaning them, relishing aso be represented : s of social classification

like this by others, who in response can bring an entire apparaand regulation to bear upon them. Although application time. as a means of classifying in one form

:r

:J ure' did not obtain its social and sociological

ups of people until around the early 1940s, subcultures social analysis and scrutiny of subcultures ide a kind of prehistory to subcultural in this Reader by outlining

or another
will

- e, of course, been with us for some considerable

But just as importantly,

--e

is also not new. This introduction

studies and a preamble to the contribuare always seen in terms of their hopefully demonstrate here, allowing that that

two ofthe primary 'logics' through which subcultures Subcultures the broader social system - society - but a (neestudies will of subcultures have prevailed

- e been understood -- y sketchy) _ articular . . -- r:;

and identified. within,

-::arionship to, and function prehistory

of subcultural

ways of conceiving

:: ~'-onship to gain its definition characteristics probably rather fragile

and force. After this, the introduction discipline through pluralist

will look at century: that talk

of subcultural

studies as it developed as a somewhat fracmost of the twentieth in its interests and extensive in is now more or less a thing forget the history and over to of newness' give themselves

- 9, among other things, increasinqly

e. Finally, I shall have something to say about recent commentaries
moment, as if subcultural own discipline identity

:-= li 'post-subcultural'
- ::o---:ory of their
-x-:

_- -~e past. I shall make the point that post-subculturalists as they enthusiastically

Seorge McKay in a slightly different

context has called a 'rhetoric

2

I(EN

GELDER 1998: 13). One of the things this Reader will show, however, studies are not only formative that subcultures is that the

(Mcl<ay

precursory

logics of subcultural

but also recur over back for a moment The Fraternity of

and over as an insistent reminder We can begin to appreciate to sixteenth-century and 'cony-catcher' writing.

are

indeed here to stay. genres of rogue, vagabond 'types' Harman who frequented the pal liard, described the as well as the

one of those logics by turning John Awdeley's

England to look at the emergent In the early 1560s, a number years identified A few

Vagabonds scrupulously the swigman,

of vagabond Thomas

the edges of early modern and so on. or swindler that 'canting a general diversity walking

English society: the ruffier, later,

the whip-jack, have coined)

speech' of the rogue (a word he may himself public might not otherwise understand

'cony-catcher'

in his Caveat for Common Cursiiors,

in order to enlighten to a doxies,

if and when it was being England. Cutpurses,

conned. An elaborate

schema of classification anti-heroes

developed to give identification

of subcultural

in Elizabethan

morts, discharged soldiers, apprentice of the period, had this

actors, brothel keepers: the list went by Robert Greene and Thomas groups in his

on and on, an 'anti-commonwealth' in the rogue literature Dekker. anthology, Gamini Salgado

of social types who were laid out systematically popularized to say about these marginal

Cony-Catchers

and Bawdy Baskets: eyes of respectable rabble/ citizens dropouts they were from the so

Seen through nothing social ladder. tightly

the disapproving

but a disorderly

and disorganized of the Elizabethan protocol

But seen from within,

they appear to be like nothing world-picture:

much as a mirror-image organized

a little world/ in church. 1972: 13) that works itself):

into its own ranks and with

its own rules, as rigid in (Salgado

its own way as the most elaborate

at court or ritual

Here we have what is now a familiar by juxtaposing producing and the organized (seen internally,

expression of subcultural from the perspective

identity

two perspectives, the disorderly

(as seen by others/ from the outside) of the subculture But it is grounded in early modern (see also Beier 1985) Underworld/ - and this is studies. in 1977/ partly genealogy for subcultural

social groups that are also anti-social. rogues and itinerants of an influential

accounts of vagabonds,

where we find the beginnings Salgado published his important in response to a collection anthology/

study/ The Elizabethan Underworld,

of writings

revealed much earlier

on in A.V. Judges' to

also called The Elizabethan

first published in 1930. A hith-

erto submerged realm of social activity the prevai I ing conventions itself is part of the project

is excavated here and placed in contrast literally

of an emergent of enlightenment,

modern ity. The process of excavation so: to make those 'underhabits, to comprehend convenwhich

worlds/ visible/ to shed I ight on their 'dark/ and subterranean their difference but also to confirm or underwrite aspect of the kind of logic that contrasts and labour: 'Stability a subculture

it. Craig Dionne captures a central with the prevailing relations vagabonds' to property

tions of early modern society/ when he looks at subcultural finds its binary opposite

in those migrant

INTRODUCTION William "stray clse'" well Harrison in his Description of England (158]) abhorring rather had called \\'caterpillars [sicJ brows" unproductive within

3 in and - as

the commonwealth"

who "I ick the sweat from the true laborers as essentially than settled

and wander about, as creatures as itinerant, moving

all labor and every honest exerits orderly logic, as we

(Dionne 1997: 36). This view of subcultures across property

confines - provides subcultural shall see. Vagabond - the artist literature John

studies with an important, into the nineteenth Vagabondiana,

formative

continued Smith's

century with - for example or Anecdotes of Mendicant

Thomas

Wanderers through the Streets of London (1817\ were being increasingly the working potential and policed in England.

published at a time when vagrants rogues and so on did not class: the

Vagabonds,

seem to labour at all, which meant that they did not belong to a labouring class. For a nascent political worldview Karl of the working residual class - the kind that problem. Marx's The Marx

built around the revolutionary developed around therefore Brumaire of posed a real Louis

middle of the nineteenth century - these kinds of subcultures apparently Eighteenth Bonaparte (1851-52)

was a scathing attack on the nephew of Napoleon I, who rose on 2 December 1851. For support, working class but a but what Marx referred to much together not a revolutionary

to power in France after his own coup d'etat Louis Bonaparte less fiatteringly had gathered ragtag of declasse subcultures:

not the proletariat,

as the lumpenproletariat: of founding agents, with alongside a benevolent society, the lumpenproletariat general at the head of the offshoots [Italian of the idlers knife-

On the pretext by Bonapartist

of Paris had been organized whole. Alongside of doubtful bourgeoisie,

into secret sections, each section being led a Bonapartist ruined means of subsistence and jail-birds, Iprocur-

decayed roues with doubtful

origin,

and adventurous

were vagabonds, discharged swindlers, pickpockets, beggars, tricksters,

soldiers, discharged lazzaroni maquereaux indefinite,

escaped galley-slaves, and beggarsJ, grinders, ers l, brothel-keepers, tinkers, mass thrown

mountebanks, gamblers,

porters, literati,

organ-grinders,

rag-pickers,

in short the whole

disintegrated

hither and thither,

which the French term la Boheme. <Tucker 1972: 479)

For Marx, the lumpenproletariat had no class consciousness it seemed to Marx thought, in their middle vulnerable

were 'beneath' was true.

class, unenlightened

because they In fact, were, he

- and therefore

no revolutionary

potential.

as if the opposite instead to reactionary easily

The lumpenproletariat

ideologies and movements, interested only to the wishes of the governing their safety and helped nevertheless sour perspective threatened

own well-being, through

led and obedient they constantly

classes - even though illegiti'mate

themselves cultures

means. This rather

came to underwrite of (the working)

a logi2'--o-r way of seeing that continues Severed from the broader to labour imperatives,

even today to tie subsubcultures can often

to non-productivity.

and more stable category

class and tangential

4

KEN

GELDER

therefore

be seen negatively:

as idle, self-absorbed

and inwardly

turned, their activIn part

ities and interests usually played out while at leisure rather than at work. two, we shall see that during the 1970s British cultural a more complex accounts subcultures subcultural and symbiotic relationship and teds. through between subcultures The Marxian

critics from the Left charted and the working with for continues to haunt their disenchantment

class, although arguably the image of the lumpenproletariat of mods and skinheads as non-revolutionary 'resistance' 'refusal'

also remains with these more recent commentaries, a discussion about the potential (see chapters 11 and 27). work of Dick Hebdige, an account On the to 'incorporation' by others the

but it finds itself recast more positively of subcultural

or, as in the influential and '(in)subordination'

other hand, Hebdige had seen subcultures and, besides, their 'refusals' ical, level. The kind of analyses directed lent: it can in fact be difficult We have seen (albeit in relation to property, upon labour, written vagrant and related marginal

as vulnerable at subcultures

could only take effect at a cultural,

rather than a polit-

from the Left during prevail.

1970s and into the 1980s can thus be both positive and negative, that is, ambivato tell, sometimes, which perceptions were positioned in the briefest of sketches) that, through social types, subcultures the figure of the precariously are scrupudepend has Gilfoyle

labour, class and the law - even as their identities and uphold the law. Timothy

lously charted and classified by those governing bodies that enshrine property, preserve class distinctions children

about the 'street rats and gutter snipes' in New York City around the middle and adolescents who lived 'outside the paradigm and
0-

of the nineteenth century, of middle-class oppositional increasingly middle-class domesticity' subculture inhabited homeliness, living

and developed out of necessity a 'confrontational of the paradigm

relative to adu It authority'

(G i Ifoyle 2004: 870 l. Cities were of social classification aroun

by people who did indeed live outside and some of the projects of vagabond subcultures

this time that reflected this migration and described their paper journalist Morning in chapter Among scale. The most striking and influential

into the metropolis

habits once they got there were thus immense in their of them was the work of the English ne _in _ Henry Mayhew, a prolonged series of intervie ,_ classes in London that were first serialized and later gathered into four volumes in 1861-62 27.

and social reformer in 1849-50

with 'street folk' and the criminal Chronicle

as London Labour and the London Poor. Mayhew's work is Andrew Tolson's topic 16 of this Reader, and it is also discussed by Hebdige in chapter it provided an elaborate system of classificatory itinerant practices, dress and language of the various prostitutes, other things, descriptior people wh beggars work an the s

for the habits, moved through swindlers, productivity. relations provident, account work

London by day and by night: costermongers, various entertainers, primary

street-sellers,

pickpockets,

and so on. As the title t in terms of their not work', 3). Mayhe

his massive study suggests, Mayhew's to labour: from

concern was with labour: to 'those who will (Mayhew 1968:

His street folk were thus classified first and foremost 'those who will work' portion exactly

latter 'possessing nothing but what they acquire by depredation and civilized of property-less of the community' reproduces and unproductive folk as parasitic the perspective

from the industrious on those people wh of Wi II iam Harrison

and own property

INTRODUCTION in 1587, subcultures noted earlier, as if this particular project logic - this way of seeing itinerant available the discourse. itinerant subcultures

5

- is now embedded as a permanently ethnographic

Mayhew's

to chronicle

of

London - also linked itself up to an emergent discipline, to lend subcultural the beginning studies one of its most powerful 'Wandering

anthropology,

which came

binaries.

Here is the famous

opening passage from the first volume of London Labour and the London Poor, at of a section titled, Tribes in General': the

Of the thousand millions population even physically

of human beings that are said to constitute morally,

of the entire globe, there are - socially, considered - but two distinct tribes.

and perhaps

and broadly marked races,

viz., the wanderers and the settlers - the vagabond and the citizen - the nomadic and the civilized (1) This binary of the wandering domesticated tural (that is, street-based) vagabond and the settled and logic of subculthis

citizen consolidates

what I have called first precursory extracts

studies, and we shall see it expressed in one way or another throughout on itinerant social groups as they migrate 12, Angela McRobbie

Reader. Indeed, part one begins with early sociological School that focus precisely American cities, 'deviant' side or adjacent

from the Chicago into major looks at the

groups of people who inhabit 'worlds within worlds' alongIn chapter Mayhew's accounts of London street sociology' and identifies remarkably in Bennett 1999).

to urban norms.

rag markets on the streets of London, recalling vendors in her treatment 18, Michel contemporary Maffesoli subcultures of subcultural as 'tribes',

trade and fashion tastes. Later on in chapter a designation that has proved

practises what he calls a 'vagabond in subcultural

seductive for subsequent work New Age travellers,

studies (for example,

In chapter 23, Kevin Hetherington

gives us a road (rather than street) subculture of those disorderly in the contemporary

modern incarnations

early modern vagabonds; city preto Borden's and other relationship

and in chapter 24, lain Borden looks at skateboarders cisely in terms of a logic that sees subcultures chapter is nothing less than a tribute

in a countercultural skateboarders,

property and disengaged from the daily demands of work and productivity. to metropolitan bestowed of the negative itinerants. revolutionary characteristics traditionally upon vagabonds

free from any

Indeed, the vagrant

acts of skateboarders may be disenchanting

are, for him, about as close to of subcultures outside the framefor some; but here it allows it is, we might say, possibility. For Marx,

as subcultures can get. The positioning

work of labour and productivity for a celebration

of energy, of play, of moments of felt utopia. This is quite differin its homage to subcultural studies - subcultures

ent in kind to Marx's much earlier view of the lumpenproletariat; romantic rather than anti-romantic the lumpenproletariat optimistic autonomy. gloriously approaches of cultural

were easi Iy led, but for Borden - and consistent with the more have agency and (relative) in chapter 42 when Ben Malbon

We shall see the same kind of celebration playful unproductivity - as an 'earthly

looks at rave clubbers and ecstasy use and represents the dance floor - in all its utopia Or dream world'.

6

KEN

GELDER

Malbon's also experience cursory

representation a 'sensation

of the clubbing

dance floor as a place where dancers a second important preway. are social groups - a point that is cast in a particular represented (by themThe socialfrom society

of oneness' gestures towards studies. Subcultures

logic for subcultural consolidated

often needs stressing these days - but their social-ness As modernity selves and by others) in opposition itself. One established the work of Frankfurt who with culture:

itself, subcultures were increasingly

to mass culture and to massification. of cultural

ness of a subculture thus becomes the means by which it is distinguished point of origin for the discipline School critical during the 1940s outlined

studies has been logic of mass production and studies,

theorist Theodor W. Adorno (see During 1993), the primary cultural and standardizes

Max Horkheimer that it homogenizes,

rationalizes

consumption, Tonnies' reputation. latter

wiping away 'individuality' und Gesellschaft

in the process. But for subcultural was first published in 1887,

we need to go back a I ittle further to the work of another German scholar. Ferdinand Gemeinschaft ignored for a international usually transThe capitalism is thus public they are relawhile and then reprinted often enough to gain Tonnies a considerable on two kinds of social organization, (Gemeinschaftl

It was a meditation

lated into Engl ish as 'community' and the development qoverned from opinion tionship now independent

and 'soc iety' (Gesellschaftl. modern, globalized Modern around society

term responded to the legacies of modernity: of a centralized above, remotely. of one another. atomizes, Relationships Modern

state govemment. are built and although capitalism

legislation,

(e.q. mass media) and convention;

people co-exist,

requires a 'mechanical'

between people based around the exchange individualizes

of money, which means that its human subjects. 38). Gemeinschaft, notion of to folk friend-

modern society therefore [society]

and alienates 1955:

Tonnies gives us this haunting expression of modern life: 'One goes into Gesellschaft as one goes into a strange country' was tied firstly to kinship networks (Tennies however, expresses a very different 'community' culture. kind of social organization. Tonnies'

and secondly to the 'Volk', built around family,

It offered a local sense of social organization For Tonnies, Gemeinschaft and authentic: difference:

ship and neighbourhood. at its most original is cast as artificial massification) - so important Subcultural ment with subcultures atomization. geneity; favourite

was an expression of the social whereas modern society Adorno, of course, modern society (and Individuality

it is 'real and organic',

(37). H is view of modern society anticipates

but here is the important

whereas Adorno juxtaposed not the solution.

with individuality,

Tonnies juxtaposed

it with community.

to Adorno - was the problem, distinction between

studies over the last 70 years or so has provided an ongoing engagecommunity and society, understandino and but heterobinds

Tonnies'

as social groups that react in some way against both massification The emphasis in subcultural terms, 'deviance'. studies is not on homogeneity, but difference in non-normative

not standardization, sociological

or,

to use one of the Chicago School's studies looks at what

Subcultural

groups of people together against standardization may be non-normative, Durkheim,

ways, but it does this as an argument Simultaneously. metropolitan (Subcultures Emile life, is also an The great sociologist

and anomie, or 'normlessness', but they are not 'normless'.) as the bane of modern

who saw anomie

INTRODUCTION important and turning part of this genealogy: believing, as Tonnies did, in 'organic unindividualized) sociality. solidarity' tribal

7

for evidence of this to anthropology is, unatomized,

and its view of 'primitive' trope of nomadism

life as a realm of pure (that of London conceptions in chapter pologist, influenced lifted from communities Durkheim's Tonnies' itself' itinerants. 37 (Becker Bronislaw the work

We have

seen Henry Mayhew draw on an anthropological But subcultural has also written of the social and the cultural Malinowski) of Michel and with Maffesoli

in his account

studies has also drawn admiringly

on anthropological Polish anthro11 (who turns his notion, kinds of that to

- as we shall see with Howard S. Becker of the empirical Durkheim Dick Hebdige in chapter - see chapter divine':

to Claude Levi-Strauss

for the notion of 'bricolage'). of the 'social

himself has directly

18 - through

anthropology,

the sense that particular like a religious Maffesoli follows force: to lack.

can be bound together is therefore contemporary,

with something

be an individual

to be incomplete,

also draws on in the wake of form of

Georg Simmel, who I mention briefly in the introduction and Gesellschaft: end, no content, these as a playful

to part five of this Reader and whose notion of 'sociability' distinction between Gemeinschaft that possesses 'no ulterior 1997: 9). sociability, Robert social interaction (Frisby Community, subcultural extract from

and no result outside about an by We

and Featherstone

the 'social divine':

are

all ways of thinking

social organization studies.

outside of or adjacent to society itself that have been useful to E. Park, who opens part one of this Reader with book, The City Cl925), in the American was heavily influenced metropolis

his co-authored

Tonnies' work and saw communities terms, as something authentic shall see the term community for example, in Will Straw's 40, in Stephen Duncombe's as 'the virtual America

precisely in 'organic'

and 'exceptional' portrayal account

in the midst of the impersonal. rock community fanzine influential description

itself put to use in a number of chapters that follow: of the alternative of 'Bohemian' in chapter across of online that reprenotion the communities

in chapter 44, and in Howard Rheingold's community' precisely as an 'organic' and atomization

group activities

in chapter 43 - a description Gemeinschaft of society itself.

sents online activity of a 'virtual Gemeinschaft

through which users can Rheingold's but for Tonnies,

find relief from the alienation community' 265).

could not be more contemporary;

was a kind of relic, elements of which 'persist within the Gesellschaft' Subcultural studies can sometimes reproduce this perception of the nineteenth-century dandy in my dialectic of the 'anachronism'

(Tennies 1955: introduction

- I note an account it goes on to describe.

to part five, for example - and so can be nostalgic for the communities But it can also put its communities into a critical

with society. After all, as Howard S. Becker has noted, when one studies 'deviancy', one also and necessarily studies society since looking at the 'judged' at the same time at those who do the judging society may be oppositional Robert E. Park had well understood: A community is not only a collection of people, but it is a collection community. Every single (Becker 1973: means looking and as 196). Subcultures

in many respects but they are also bound together,

of institutions ....

There is always a larger

8

KEN

GELDER

community

is always a part of some larger and more inclusive one. There wholly detached and isolated; all

are no longer any communities interdependent mate community economically

are

and politically

upon one another. (Park etal.1925:

The ulti115) local

is the wide world.

This expression of interrelatedness Subcultures

runs the risk of breaking

up a community's

discreteness as it folds it into other social formations: are not discrete entities; and being acted on in turn by, the world fact see competing the otherworldliness subcultures sion through of rhetoric see with of subcultures

which is precisely the point.

they are always in the process of acting upon, around them. In this Reader we shall in and what we might call accounts which fold them from as a matter as we shall music's identifies and as are 15 a anti-romantic

accounts which talk up the worldliness by turns: commentaries

into society, and romantic their anti-commercialism, only, but as a romantic This is especially S. Becker's

which distinguish (usually

it. For example, the otherworldliness

of some modern subcultures a way of establishing investment) one's opposition

can find expresto the norms of punks, both of

modern capitalism. Howard which position his American Bohemianism, itan-based anti-commercial,

true of some music subcultures, and Dick Hebdige's to the 'mainstream'

jazz musicians features.

themselves in opposition fanzine communities in contrast anti-mass

by disavowing

corporate/industrial/commodifying

Stephen Duncombe similarly and corporate social forms identity

as non-commercial

through their amateurism generally represented Subcultures chapter

to the professional Urban bohemias cultural,

of metropol-

mass media.

are themselves

'alternative' mass cultural

spaces: like the artists' - although

colonies in New York's so often distinguished broadly speaking.

Soho, for example (see I<ostelanetz 2003). not just from

answers back to this - but also from the 'executive' On the other hand, subcultural activity, subculture's (1972), writers erhood' Pat wrote immersion Rogers in commercial and underrated

aspects of modern capitalism studies can also emphasize Studies in a Subculture 'Scribblers', and so found culture, 281). hack 'brothitself 'the and business prac-

money-making London

tices. In his excellent of political

book, Grub Street:

looks at the eighteenth-century pornography for money first

pamphlets,

and so on. This loosely affiliated and foremost world of literary

and published

positioned subculture too worldly:

outside the

more

genteel and 'civilized'

preserve of the learned, the leisured and the secure' (Rogers 1972: is marginalized we might think of the relentlessly self-promoting Jonathan

Here, a as if it is an

precisely because its interests are commercial, bookseller culture and publisher.

Edmund Curllas

example here, a notorious Pope satirized the purity of high literary

Swift and Alexander the law, protecting but the hacks

and attacked the Scribblers

in print and through

by consigning

not just their writing Rogers writes:

themselves to the lowest literary The fundamental sions as criminal,

and social order.

technique of Augustan polemic is forcibly as prostituted, as pestiferous;

to enrol one's effuone

opponent in the lowest segment of society. One branded his literary and if possible

INTRODUCTION showed that his actual district him, that is, within living quarters partook (as they might be) were set in a of the same qualities. One placed (279) The commercial ways by contributors interests and identities fashion in London's of subcultures rag markets

9

whose social character

the precincts

of Grub Street.

are expressed in various in chapter 12, the young entreprecentres, of in account commercial are 'subcultural

to this Reader. For Angela McRobbie

women who buy their making

neurs': the way they trade distinguishes them 'alternative' in chapter rather club cultures

them from corporate

than oppositional. children'

Sarah Thornton's

17 is more worldly

still in its perspective:

seeing clubbers in what

as 'hip' on the one hand, but as 'Thatcher's the leisure worlds of modern capitalism they do as anybody else. For James Farrer less oppositional, to the worldliness guishing alternative romantic

on the other, participating

and being just as entrepreneurial

in chapter 41, the Chinese disco scene

in fact provides a point of entry into modern, global capitalism. Straw's contribution and is open to global it not from

It could not be any

except for the fact, of course, that this happens in China. In Will - chapter 40 - the word 'scene' is considered more appropriate of a subculture influences. some broader that participates in a global capitalist economy of He accounts for dance music in this way, distinsense of society but from the 'community' that are romantic and anti-

rock. Subcultures simultaneously. culture

often draw perspectives subcultures

When we get to the last chapter in this Reader by Martin fully immersed in global capitalism were it is But now, for Roberts, industries. Once, as I have suggested, subcultures

Roberts, we shall see contemporary and transnational distinguished from the industrious

and the productive. industry' in 'alternative' revision

possible to speak of the 'subculture living. erant Even so, the romance 'global underground':

as social elites wander restlessly around but often expensive modes of of the 'underworld' of early remains as Roberts describes an itin-

the world searching for and investing

of subcultures a postmodern

modern English society. Subcultural ferentiated studies as a modern discipline begins as a response to the increasingly difaspects of social life, to the recognition that 'society' is in fact host to an or unconventional, empirical in its quite dif-

extensive range of social practices, some of which are 'alternative' others of which are transgressive and even oppositional. approach; although it can also be theoretically sophisticated,

It is primarily

it is therefore

ferent in kind and method to the abstracted cultural theory of Adorno and the Frankfurt School. It fixes its gaze on what Georg Simmel, around the end of the nineteenth century, had called the 'microscopic-molecular' and Featherstone to influence 1997: Chicago School sociologists processes in human interaction during the 1920s and 1930s, (Frisby especially 9). Simmel helped to develop a 'microsociology' that came

th rough its sense that in metro pol itan modern ity one is constantly and necessari Iy interacting with otherness. A number of terminologies analyses of microsocial activity, have since been coined to facilitate all of which are essentially variants on the word here as I have noted, although

sub-

culture.

'Community'

is foundational

in its familiar

usage this term by no means necessarily connotes unconventionality

or oppositionality.

10

I(EN

GELDER

Tonnies had associated community an example of a subculture

with family

and kinship, homeliness and domesbroadness

ticity - but with the 'street rats and gutter snipes' of New York we have already seen positioned against these things. The potential of the term can also be problematic community'. munities' - and sometimes, it is used as a synonym for sociportion of the and 'serial com-

ety anyway, as in Henry Mayhew's remarks above about 'the civilized Much later on, Paul Willis writes of 'proto-communities' 1990: 141-42), while (Willis

Ulf Hannerz turns to 'micro-communities' continues to be appealVictor Turner for Gemeinschaft

(Hannerz 1992: 68-81), ing. Twenty-odd had talked

all in an attempt to give the term a more explicit application. and Hannerz, the anthropologist reconfiqurinq Tonnies'

But the otherness sometimes implied in the term community years before Willis influentially about communitas,

the 1960s counterculture. Communitas

Communitas was defined against 'structure',

an expression

of the orderl iness and hierarchies of society which loosely recalls Tonnies' Gesellschaft. is cast as the opposite of this, an 'anti-structure': and difference; an expression of liminality, of social marginality of full and 'total' various tribal a site of unmediated contact between peo-

ple at the edges of society, unregulated

by it and-frye from its orderly gaze, a realm

experience (Turner 1969: 136). Turner associated communitaswith Church', hippies and their spontaneous 'happenings', Blake, and so on. The last point of identification identity makes it no less compelling artist-

groups as well as - for example - Franciscan monks in terms of their shows that

relation to the 'structured prophets such as William communitas tic (or subcultural even, Romantic) studies.

also works as an imaginary,

utopian and literary conceit; but its romanfor some aspects of Turner's work; preferIn in the Jones

Several contributors ring different chapter 2002;

to this Reader have in fact drawn on Victor notions of community of marginal figuration; for their representation

others, however, move away from 'organic' terminologies 30, Michael Shaviro 2003); Atkinson

altogether,

social groups. Wittel 2001;

uses the term

others, particularly

field of information word was introduced in his remarkable

technologies,

prefer network

(for example,

and we have already come across the word scene. This latter into subcultural studies by Californian Irwin's contribution sociologist John Irwin Scenes (1977). to this Reader ends

book,

part one - on the Chicago School and urban ethnography from the Chicago School's early sense that subcultures pressure to conform, democratic or an evasion of forms points to a very contemporary social pluralism: Irwin At the same time, his professional sense that subcultural his connection of social

- because it shifts away regulation. Instead, Irwin of else.

are a reaction against social identities are a symptom

the result of lifestyle choices as much as anything

maintains

to the Chicago School through his book, in and into

interests as a criminologist,

helped along by various early brushes interest in 'society'

with the law and some time spent in prison. This is how he introduces a move that takes us directly an empirical away from a theoretical involvement schools, and in this case personal and graduate with 'microsociology':

In undergraduate searching

I attempted

to penetrate embodied.

the At

vague and esoteric abstractions

of sociology.

Like most students, I kept

for concepts which my own social experiences

INTRODUCTION

11

16, I had been an incipient 'head'; 'prison collective 21, a 'thief' (again);

'hot rodder';

at 17, a 'hoodlum'; at 20, a 'construction from

at 18, a stiff'; at

at 19, a would-be 'safe-cracker'; intellectual'; pursuits

at 22, an almost 'dope fiend'; and at 28, a 'surfer'. to be tried

23 to 28, a

These were all well-known by myself and my and

which were available

peers. When many of us plunged into them - which we did gleefully some of us did voluntarily exclusive or lifetime commitment. (Irwin The term scene, for Irwin, also recognizes the increasing 'casual' rather than complete 1977:

- we understood that we were not making an

III
but it

gives expression to a discrete 'social world', mobility and flux of social identity. relations

One's attachment to them may be but they

to scenes can stem from choice rather than predicament; or permanent; can also 'overlap' so that one's social identity Irwin maintained

they may change routinely,

can be associated with a number of who had already published a major

scenes rather than just one. As a criminologist study of The Felon (970), tural connection subcultural tural between scenes and deviance. much in the tradition

the Chicago School's necessary subculBut his account of anthropology, helped to open up had been treated as and where subculor a

studies after the Chicago School, where subcultures was determined by one's circumstances: and so condemning

discrete and monocultural identity were disadvantaged 'life-cycle' without

tied to social groups which members to a 'career'

or subordinate, much of a future, 2.

as we see in Paul G. Cressey's account of taxistudies moving back and forth between as distinct their forms of sociality on the other; on the casting identities their

dancer girls in chapter these two approaches: them as monocultures ability, their transience.

In this Reader we shall see subcultural representing one hand, but pluralizing them and blurring their

subcultures

with a set of shared interests and beliefs that all its particiheterogeneity, porousness and varisubcultures actually street gangs, crimnot always, studies, forms and is spectacThe question of how distinct or 'deviant'

pants subscribe to, or emphasizing

are these days preoccupies subcu Itural studies. In earl ier Chicago School accounts, subcultures strikingly subcultural were often associated with homelessness, immigrant homosexuality: their differences apparent. Later on, as subcultural - a 'refusal' inal underworlds, were often, although of mass cultural

studies tied itself to cultural

distinctions

were seen in terms of a 'refusal' punks in the late 1970s. And not every subculture, Even so, the precursory and positioned

of social 'incorporation' as it did with British ular, or even 'visible'. tional or transgressive. seen subcultures times 'utopian'

that could at times express itself spectacularly, But not every subculture as I have already noted, is opposilogics I outlined earlier - which have them negatively in relation to labour,

as itinerant conception

class, homeliness and property, to use in various ways through ology that map out subcultural

but which have also configured them through a some- remain here, and we shall see them put from Chicago School socideviance and each of the eight parts that follow. identity in terms of urban movement,

of 'community'

This Reader begins with some essential contributions

12

KEN

GELDER usually approaching commentaries from their subcultures Birmingham empirically and ethnographically with early examples

'life-cycle', (again, Cultural of British underpinned

in the traditions Studies (CCeS)

of anthropology).

This is followed University's identity

Centre for Contemporary to a more theoretically from below'. Part in

which return subcultural

reading of class and develop narrative positions

versions of what E. P. Thompson each of which is critical of 'subterranean' use of the term reintegrating

- as I note in the introduction three offers some alternative its own way of cultural chapter 13 and Michel

to part two - had called 'history on subcultures, account

studies approaches. Maffesoli's infiuential life (chapter reducing

Some of these are romantic contemporary 14), unpacking force

in their play in

Inflection, as we shall see with Jock Young's
in chapter cultural 1 18. Others are more worldly (chapter IS),

tribes

or anti-romantic: the political

subcultures (chapter as 'social 16). The studies:

back into the realm of ordinary

the subcultural/mass

n and turning

binary

of subcultures of subcultures

to Michel Foucault to see the identification of governmental ity and subjectification: them to classificatory inhabitation of territory by subordinating

types' as a matter of subcultures remaining

reducing the 'otherness'

schemes (chapter

parts of this Reader each foreground the 'semiotic' interest turn to expressions

key aspects of subcultural of subcultural

the emphasis on the subcultural of property), the particular

(as opposed to ownership style and Signature, articulations relations of sexuto music, the

over the last 20 years in subcultural (and 'super-cultural') identities communities', and fragile

ality and gender, the turn to subcultural and the increasing mitted in media, imperatives identity. relevance. online (through 'virtual

focus on the way subcultural

are presented and transetc.) and through

of a global ized capital ist economy. is both powerful as a designation for social and to this Reader unpick this term and, as I have of social groups jostle with it for legitimacy

The term subculture

Some of the contributors

noted, other ways of conceiving dustbins of cultural what is now referred at Birmingham's history.

But it seems to me that it is much too soon to relegate this term to the A few commentators have already done this, of course, The post-subcultural the infiuential approach work typithis introduction with some remarks on the trend towards studies undertaken of Dick studies Post'apolit52)

and it is worth concluding cally begins by distancing

to as 'post-subcultures'. during

itself from the kind of British cultural the 19705, especially

cces

Hebdige. It turns away from the earlier class, and subordination; that sees subcultures use of cultural subcultural of postmodernism ical sentiments', their co-edited signs.

links drawn between subcultures, the working approach to subcultural even oppositional critique by talking hybridity, is postmodernism. transience, or illegitimate, up those aspects 2000:

and it rejects a 'semiotic' The key term in this

in terms of their unorthodox,

approaches emphasize their contemporaneity - fragmented mobility, anthology and fluid identities, a 'celebration

of the inauthentic'

(Muggleton

- which would seem to prevent subcultural and Rupert Weinzierl an 'heroic guerilla warfare',

identity from ever gaining coherence. In (2003), David Muggleton researchers as 'semiotic

devoted to 'post-subcultures'

thus see the work of Hebdige and other studies, since it emphasized

eees

phase' in subcultural authenticity,

'resistance',

and so on: precisely the features

they now reject.

INTRODUCTION

13

e shall see in part two of this Reader, of course, that the Birmingham ere in fact ambivalent about subcultural 'resistance'; and for they traced Paul Willis

researchers out the loss and Angela On the they soci-

of

(working

class) 'authenticity' in particular,

in subcultures; identities

McRobbie

subcultural

were anything

but 'heroic'.

other hand, it is worth can occasionally

noting that for Muggleton

and Weinzierl

post-subcultures 8), while new One of the

seem to be more heroic than ever before. Anarchist-punks, discourse and praxis' 'apolitical (2003: to the commodification is only partially want their of life in capitalist sentiments'.

suggest, 'are able to embrace a radical protest movements are 'antagonistic eties' (15): so much for problems purpose. hybridity features here is that postmodernism Muggleton and Weinzierl to subcultures. and inauthenticity, 'should not blind

a post-subculture'S

able to serve its descriptive to reflect cultural that these

post-subcultures

topics we shall see discussed and debated elsewhere in But they also want to acknowledge economic, political us to continuing and ideological of Birmingham's - the about project

this Reader in relation inequalities'

(1S). We find ourselves back with the preoccupations The Postmodern Subculture:

CCCS here, just at the moment when we are supposed to leave them behind. In his book, Inside Subculture: title echoes that of Dick Hebdige's Muggleton Meaning of Style (2000) The Meaning of Style (1979)

suggests that the CCCS during the 1970s had been both totalizing which to some degree is true. So Muggleton's again. He talks directly enough, to subcultural or casually as their are unemployed I regarded meaning' allover

and remote from subcultures, is to become 'empirical' many of whom, selected for appearance'_(M uggleton ologists had interview 2000:

participants employed, frame' but its with chamand more

interestingly

'on the basis of what

unconventional

in order to place 'subjective 171, 9). M uggleton empirical

back into the 'empirical 'neo-Weberian'; in their research

calls his approach and ethnographic

newness is doubly compromised been equally out-of-work

when we remember that the Chicago School sociemployed taxi-dancers characteristics Thornton) and other and so

gang members, homeless men, casually

on many years ago. We shall see that other 'post-subcultural' pioned by Muggleton Reader: for example, performativity (Irwin, recent contributions). Irwin 'com mod ity-orientation'

are also already accounted for in the following (M c Robbie, Clarke,

pages of this

Fyvel and Young, as well as Halberstam
The point of 'post-subculturalism'

is essentially

a reaffirmain Scenes. But and

tion of what John Irwin had already outlined almost 30 years earlier had insisted on the fact that subcultures - for all their fluidity, in contemporary life account, fragmentation is all but lost, replaced contingency Muggleton's that sociality subcultures modern

transience

are nevertheless always 'social worlds'. In and diffusion are talked up to such an extent
by precisely one of the things that For Muggleton, wipes away 'as a symptom any trace modern subcultures

have reacted against: individualization.
(6) a term that

are

now 'post-subcultures' interviewees'

because they must be understood

of postof his

hyperindividualism'

social, as well as economic, predicaments Bennett and I<ahn- Harris' vein, also carefully distancing

in one broad stroke. Another (2004), titled works itself 'Fragmented

recent anthology, out in a similar

A fter Subculture

its approach and position from CCCS

research during the 1970s.

For David Chaney in a contribution

14

KEN GELDER and Subcultures', of lifestyle distinctions between dominant has fractured (Bennett culture dominant and subculture culture 'into a 2004: them-

Cultures plurality 47).

now no longer hold because postmodernism sensibilities unemployed Muggleton's interviewees

and preferences'

and Kahn-Harris recognizing

may have difficulty

selves in this untroubled cultural has ... football (chapters or online Rheingold's and economic evaporated' ground

vision of contemporary differences

life, which once again erases social, In Chaney's postrecognized features be worth

all in the name of 'plurality'. it might

modern world, 'any confidence in a shared space with commonly (48). By way of a remedy to this, mending a visit to the local gym (see chapter (chapter

recom-

34 in this Reader),

or the nearest 45)

22), or a drag king club (chapter in 'net.goth' 43). the post-subcultures activity (chapter 47)

35), or a dance club in Japan (chapter or to join Howard

41 and 42), or a manga comic book convention to participate WELL (chapter

Elsewhere in After Subculture, lently registered. about individual differentiation' Kahn-Harris lifestyle choices';

model is much more ambiva-

For Ben Carrington

and Brian Wilson, dance cultures there are indeed 'patterns

'are

not just

of class and racial

here (78), hardly a challenging in a chapter titled A point 'Unspectacular

conclusion to draw (not least because Subculture?', extreme metal music of a

of all the work already done on subcultures, scene participants metal scene (117).

class and race at the CCCS)' For Keith to the extreme

are, as we might also expect, 'deeply committed' like this might only be surprising

in the context

book about Iife after subcultures. Harris both upholding closing remarks: 'Although some of the more difficult term subculture tion, the British

It may not be surprising

at all, then, to see Kahnis an inappropriate (118). concept Here, the

and betraying

the logic of the book he co-edited with these cultural practice, it none the less illuminates we may be able to ask

I would argue that subculture problematics of creating

to use in the analysis of contemporary is both 'inappropriate' sociologist

youth culture'

and 'illuminating':

no more of any social terminology! about the 'post-subculture' project.

In an 'Afterword'

to Bennett and Harris's collecSimon Frith is also ambivalent of CCCS approaches, ideology' he 'still want to celebrate the and 'hanker, Perhaps an over(176),

and popular music critic to After

For all their rejection Subculture to dominant

observes, a number of contributors despite themselves, these nostalgias investment of sheer subcultures tacular':

lives they examine as some kind of opposition for evidence of resistance generational. post-subcultures it paradoxically are simply The

and transgression'

But they also stem here from distinctions away from model turns

in 'plurality' relativism. as distinctive

that has now reduced subcultural

to a matter a sense of to 'lifestyle'

social groups; but as it abandons subculture ends up underwriting is now so fragmented

and atomized

individuality,

only the 'unspec-

as if social difference

and diffuse that the very notion The Fragmentation

of it has effectively

dissolved away. Chris Jenks, in his book Subculture: similarly concludes by giving up the concept of a subculture. that we all along

The British sociologist of the Social (2005), But he curiously turning

heads in the opposite di rection to that of the 'post-subcu Iture' model:

away from individual ization to speak, instead, of 'the "society"

live in' (Jenks 2005: 145). This point of view also carries its own nostalgias

INTRODUCTION

15

ure

.ith it, of course: 'A quarter - with so little confidence,

of a century ago', Jenks writes,
(142),

'we discussed "soci-

oa
..:.004: _ emial, :: ost=-ures

ety" as a reality with confidence'

But in his attempt

to recover this category is now always accompawith utter samehas complained at all, remainhave

it must be said, that the term

nied by inverted commas - Jenks ends up replacing sheer relativism difference) would seem to suqqest.' The post-subcultural had been both totalizing approach

ness, as the final sentence of his book (which also does away with any sense of social about the way Birmingham's

eees

about and remote from commentators

ecornearest

its subcultures,

but Jenks's study barely looks at actual subcultures

ing as remote from them as it is possible to be. Post-subcultural found themselves speaking up for the unspectacular, they promote 'individual lifestyle choices'. want to submit the 'peculiarly he calls 'the constraints encompassing and all-enclosing. privatized forms'
(12):

=-~ 45)
- 'va-_ just

.=

club rd

the atomized and the diffuse as
(144)

But Jenks, on the other hand, seems to of individualization as if 'society' to what is, or should be, allstudies from Reader At the very

of the totality'

Representing

a history of subcultural

its early formations offers a collection

to the present day, the second edition of The Subcultures of work that subscribes to neither of these positions. and by no means so readily constrained.

-a

ial

;:; se eith ic

least, it should remind us that the social worlds of subcultures means so undistinguished,

out there are by no

reme
Note
;;: nse 1 This final sentence reads: 'What about the people who always seem to I ive next door, who always play their music too loud, could they comprise a subculture - or are you the people who always seem to live next door?' (Jenks 2005: 145). There is no answer to this anxiety-ridden to do with subcultures. closing question, which also has nothing much

zept
-:es

the

ask
ec.ent
e _e er,

-s
er-r

of e'
,-

n
'1:'.

21

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