chapter  12
20 Pages


Patterns in the circulation of surplus value are changing but they have not altered the fact that cities . . . are founded upon the exploitation of the many by the few.

(Harvey, 1973, p. 314)

Introduction The intentions of this paper are essentially very modest; although its scope is broad. Drawing upon our research on ‘post-adolescence’ (Macrae et al., 1997a,b), we present three very different ‘socioscapes’ that separate and stratify the young people in our cohort sample.1 Socioscapes are ‘networks of social relations of very different intensity, spanning widely different territorial extents . . .’ (Albrow, 1997, p. 51). We want to illustrate how three young people; Michael, Wayne and Rachel, are embedded differently within in their locality – Northwark, an inner suburb of London – within London more generally, and within global ‘spaces’. In this respect and others, the lives of these young people are shaped in the relationship between a set of structural and material limits and possibilities and various individual factors. That is to say, their different ‘opportunity structures’ (Roberts, 1968) are in part self-made, constructed out of perceptions and assessments of risk and need and personal efficacy but are also framed by ‘real geographies of social action’ (Harvey, 1989, p. 355). Thus, we want to highlight the reflexive individualism of these young people – the creative manipulation of ‘seemingly contingent geographical circumstances’ (Harvey, 1993, p. 294) – but at the same time underline the continuing importance of classed, ‘raced’ and gendered inequalities in London. We shall also point up the spatial complexity of these inequalities (Ball, 1998; Ball et al., 1998). As Harvey argues those with the capacity to ‘transcend space . . . command it as a resource. Those who lack such a skill are likely to be trapped by space’ (Harvey, 1973, p. 82). In looking at the different ways in which these young people address the question ‘How shall I live?’ (Giddens, 1991, p. 271) our analysis indicates one manifestation of and aspect of what Roberts et al. (1994) refer to as ‘structured individualisation’.