Subcultures are seen as groups which have traditionally occupied an underground or marginal status in society. Subculture can be identified as a set of cultural arrays of behaviour conceded by a segment of the population in one country. This paper seeks to answer the question of whether subculture is relevant to understanding the youth in contemporary British Society. It will look at two theoretical studies around the youth subculture and how they were perceived and their criticism.
In an attempt to answer the question, this will look back in time where subculture as a concept was first envisaged and how it was presented and if it was relevant to understanding youth then and use that to access how youth subculture is perceived in contemporary British society and its relevance to understanding the youth in contemporary society. It will besides look at some of the critics and discussions of contemporary subculture and whether it is still relevant in the contemporary society.
Subcultures are a set of cultural patterns of behaviours carried by a segment within larger or more complex society. The members of a specific subculture possess beliefs, norms, values and customs that set them apart from the members of the same society. It exists with culture within a culture. It was emerged as a conflict with a culture which goes beyond traditional ways of solving problems. Subculture can help to understand and explain the values of young groups within society. They are mostly associated with youth/young people in society (Kehily, 2012).
The cultural study approach to youth subculture is largely associated with the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) based at the University of Birmingham, UK from 1964 until 2002. In an influential collection of the studies, CCCS researchers explored youth subculture as expressive from resistance that make connections between everyday experience, social class, culture and the wider society. (Kehily, 2012) CCCS labelled youth subculture as a deviant act which was resulted from the process of social labelling in society, where working class youth were labelled from their class background.
For this reason, young people from a working class background want to express themselves, not through how they are labelled by society however, wanted to be different. For example, the working class youth subculture were very much concerned with their relatively low status and their desire to achieve membership in the higher class in which they would not be labelled as working class, but would rise up the social ladder (Debies-Carl, 2013).
According to CCCS, British youth subculture represents working class young people who struggle to differentiate themselves from both parent’s culture and working class culture which was used to identify them. It was seen as a way to express their lives and identity such as ethnicity and class consciousness. They used the creation of subculture to make that happen and to make the adult world see them differently other than being classified by their parents culture or what society wanted them to be (Kehily, 2012).
Post-subculture studies do not consist of a coherent, new paradigm, rather contain a number of related observations and conceptualization of subculture which are critical of the CCCS studies of youth subculture. According to post subculture theories, the CCCS studies are either outdated to the current postmodern condition of social life. They argue that CCCS perspective are too structural, static and modernist, whereas contemporary youth inhabit social worlds that are more complex, constantly shifting and flexible.
According to post subculture theories, CCCS neglects the other important elements of life, such as age, gender and ethnicity and solely rely on the role of social class, or see it as the most important determinant in the creation of subcultures and the form they take (Blackman, 2005; Mueller, 2008). The reason why this essay looked at the subculture in the past was in order it to look at how subculture in the past were perceived and how it helped to understand youth then and compare how it is now and if the ideology of the past subculture is still present in the contemporary British society.
According to Kehily (2012) subculture can help us to understand and explain what people do within society. In the 1960’s and 70’s, the article about Cohen’s folks devils and moral panic marked the emergence of a new and highly influential approach to youth and their behaviours in society, which was then referred to as youth subculture. The concept of subculture is important for people to understand the social lives of young people and what kind of message they want to convey in society and how they want to be understood. Over time, these subcultures acquired names and identities such as punks, skinheads, Goths and hipsters.
They had a particular way of addressing the ideology the group go with and each member of the group had to stick to this ideology and style. This group of subculture helped to illustrate the many ways in which young people can be observed and understood in society. It was argued that structures of society such as social class inequality and power within this structure aided young people to negotiate and augment their own distinctive way to face those structures through symbolic of the group or ideology that the group shared within society.