chapter  6
The Subculture Concept: A Genealogy
WithALBERT BELL
Pages 32

Social criminologists approach their inquiries into those aspects of social deviance that capture their imagination and interest through a conceptual framework that is o en informed by a theoretical construct-an ideal type through which one de nes, explains, and elaborates the phenomenon at stake to make sense of the in nitely kaleidoscopic nature of the social reality under scrutiny. e subculture concept is one such ideal type [Muggleton, 2000]. As will be examined in this chapter, the origins and foremost applications of the concept may be traced and rmly located within classic criminology and cultural deviance theory. e concept was reworked, rearticulated, and rejuvenated in the 1970s by Phil Cohen, John Clarke, Stuart Hall, Tony Je erson, Paul Willis, Dick Hebdige, and other theorists pertaining to the University of Birmingham’s Centre of Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) in the United Kingdom [Bennett and Kahn-Harris, 2004b; Brake, 1985; S. Cohen, (1972) 1993; Jenks, 2005; Weinzierl and Muggelton, 2004]. With the rise of postmodernist sociology, the use and application of the subculture concept as an e ective analytical tool became hotly contested. e understanding of (essentially youth) subcultures as shared, collective solutions to problems of status frustration and adjustment, marking rupture from the value consensus pervasive in normative society (as contended in anomie-inspired cultural

deviance theory), or as inherently symptomatic of working-class resistance to class oppression (as promulgated and articulated by the CCCS), found little favor among such postsubculturalists as Muggleton [1997, 2000], Bloustein [2004], Stahl [2004], and other dissenters. ese invariably sought to develop a model or ideal type of subculture distanced from the trappings of what such authors considered to be totalizing and a priori theoretical frameworks, which were distanced and far from synchronized to the e ervescence and uidity of contemporary social milieus.