chapter  1
RETHINKING SUBCULTURE: A critique for the twenty-first century
Pages 16

Academic concepts wax and wane in terms of their influence. Although Frith and Goodwin (1990: 41) rate the 1970s as the ‘zenith of subcultural theory’s influence’, tracing this to a 1979 review of Hebdige’s Subculture, at the time of writing a renewed academic interest in the concept appears to be upon us, with a new generation of subculture-influenced studies which offer more than a simple restatement of received orthodoxy. Indeed the adjective ‘post-subcultural’ (Bennett and Harris 2003; Muggleton 1997; 2000; Muggleton and Weinzierl 2003; Pilkington 2001) and the variant ‘post-Birmingham’ (Thornton 1995) are repeatedly emphasised by twenty-first century neo-subculturalists. Of course criticisms of subcultural theory began from within almost as soon as the ink was dry on some of the original subcultural works.This opening chapter continues in this critical vein begun by scholars such as Stanley Cohen over two decades ago. Now that a revival of academic interest in youth cultural questions is upon us, what can we use to build on from the old Birmingham subcultural studies and what elements must we challenge?