Understanding Youth Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Youth Subcultures

Sociologists base their studies of youth subcultures on structured and unstructured interviews, participant observation and analysis of media, texts and music. Unlike similar studies in the 1950s and 1960s, such as Albert Cohen's Delinquent Boys (1955) that described post-World War II youth cultures as a relatively new and unknown phenomenon, more recent research over the past thirty years has been heavily based on feminist and postmodernist theories. These place special emphasis on the diversity and multiplicity within each subculture, while trying to avoid the stereotypes that commonly appear in the mass media. This new type of sociology also appears to me more journalistic than objective, scientific or value free, rejecting the principles and pretensions of Talcott Parsons and his generation of postwar sociologists. Of course, any type of sociology should still consider questions of ethnicity, social class, immigration, poverty, inequality and violence, although the funding to investigate these issues is far more limited than it was in the past. Both the straight-edge and rave subcultures are highly diverse and pluralistic, and contain radical, countercultural and 'resistance' elements, as well as large numbers of relatively apolitical youth who simply enjoy the music and want to have a good time. This was also the case with rock music from the 1950s to the 1970s as well as more contemporary subcultures. Straight-edge also has a more conservative anti-drug and alcohol element than rock or rave, although it also developed a leftist and radical side in the 1990s. Both subcultures are also segregated by color, social class and sexual orientation, with different styles of music and dance for their separate audiences. They have also generated some moral panics, as rock did in the 1950s and 1960s, and this is particularly true of rave and the drugs associated with it.

Straight-edge subculture is descended from the punk rock scene of the 1970s and 1980s, and began with Ian MacKaye and his band Minor Threat, and later by another group Youth of Today. In the 1980s this subculture was generally conservative and opposed to drugs, premarital sex and alcohol, and may have been inspired by the Reagan administration's War of Drugs and Just Say No rhetoric. A more radical version appeared in the 1990s, typified by Ebullition records and its fanzines. Wood does not describe this leftist version of the subculture in any great detail, however, but notes that its participants are mostly university students. Straight-edge youth wear sports clothing or second-hand items and t-shirts, and mark the backs of their hands with a black X (Wood 2006). Some of its supporters are also vegetarians and oppose abortion, and at times they have been accused of attacking other youths who do not share these conservative values. Live concerts or shows are the most important part of the scene, where participants meet each other and their favorite bands, and also buy or exchange CDs. At times, the subculture's emphasis on purity and order has attracted racist and…

Sources Used in Document:


Wilson, B. (2006). Fight, Flight, or Chill: Subcultures, Youth and Rave into the Twenty-First Century. McGill-Queen's University Press.

Wood, R.T. (2006). Straightedge Youth: Complexity and Contradictions of a Subculture. Syracuse University Press.

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