chapter  9
The duality of the devil: Realism, relationalism and representation
ByJames Meades
Pages 18

While the concept of moral panic remains on the fringes of mainstream sociology (Ungar 2001), it is ready for a substantial and sustained breakthrough. A recent surge of articles on moral panic (Doran 2008; Garland 2008; Hier 2008; Critcher 2009; Jenkins 2009) indicates that it is time to ‘rethink’ (McRobbie and Thornton 1995), ‘think beyond’ (Hier 2008) and ‘widen the focus’ (Critcher 2009) of moral panic analysis. To this end, I interrogate a central, yet taken-for-granted component of moral panic analysis: folk devils. The folk devil concept exists in a dual nature. On the one hand, it is a stylistic

representation or abstracted social construct of some condition, episode, person or group of people. That is, folk devils exist as ideological representations of harm. On the other hand, representations of folk devils emerge from and depend upon essential actions of real people who exist relationally to others, both directly and indirectly. Cohen recognized the dual nature of folk devils when he wrote,

[I]n the first part, the Mods and Rockers are hardly going to appear as ‘real, live people’ at all. They will be seen through the eyes of the societal reaction and in this reaction they tend to appear as disembodied objects, Rorshach blots on to which reactions are projected. In using this type of presentation, I do not want to imply that these reactions – although they do involve elements of fantasy and selective misperception – are irrational nor that the Mods and Rockers were not real people, with particular structural origins, values, aims and interests. Neither were they creatures pushed and pulled by the forces of the societal reaction without being able to react back. I am presenting the argument in this way for effect, only allowing the Mods and Rockers to come to life when their supposed identities had been presented for public consumption.