chapter  2
28 Pages

Street-wise. The delinquent subculture in sociological theory in the United States The Chicago school and the social ecology of the

Any consideration of the development of working-class delinquent subcultures must involve the surveillance and control of youth as a subsection of the labour force. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Europe saw the old feudal agrarian economy replaced by a system which involved the consolidation of land and the development of a capitalist, market-oriented economy. Large numbers of displaced peasantry drifted to the towns, thus threatening the artisans resident in the city. The Poor Laws were passed to prevent this migration, and vagrancy laws were introduced to control homeless drifters and regulate city street life. As early as 1562 the Elizabethan Statute of Artificers restricted access to certain trades and confined youth in England to the country. As urban migration continued, concern grew over the vagrant bands of youth who begged, stole and prostituted themselves in the urban streets. In 1555, London’s Bridewell was the first institution exclusively built and designed to control and contain destitute, handicapped, vagrant and orphaned youth. There has been always a concern with marginal members of the labour force, and a fear that the honest poor would be contaminated by criminalised elements. Street culture is a perennial danger; Mary Carpenter in 1859 classified working people into the labouring and the ragged classes. The ragged poor were an underclass containing two groups-the ‘perishing’ and the ‘dangerous’ classes. The former were worthy recipients of charity, struggling for respectability in the urban jungle, whilst the latter were a criminalised fraction. There was a constant fear, especially after the French Revolution among the urban bourgeoisie, that the perishing classes might be recruited into the dangerous classes of thieves, beggars and criminals and develop an insurrectionary force, disengaged from loyalty to the state by poverty and hardship.