The beginnings of subculture theory involved various theorists associated with what became known as the Chicago School. Subcultural theory emerged from the work of the Chicago School on gangs and developed through the symbolic interactionism school into a set of theories arguing that certain groups or subcultures in society have values and attitudes that are conducive to crime and violence. The work associated with Birmingham University’s Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) was most responsible for the association of subculture with groupings based around spectacular styles (teds, mods, punks, skins, motorbike boys and so on). Subculture theory: Chicago School of Sociology
The beginnings of subcultural theory involved various theorists associated with what became known as the Chicago School. Though the emphasis of the theorists varies, the school is most famous for a conception of subcultures as deviant groups, whose emergence had to do with ‘the interaction of people’s perceptions of themselves with others’ view of them’ . This is, perhaps, best summarized in Albert Cohen’s theoretical introduction to a study of ‘Delinquent Boys’ (1955). For Cohen, subcultures consisted of individuals collectively resolving societal status problems by developing new values which rendered status-worthy the characteristics they shared. Acquisition of status within the subculture entailed being labelled and, hence, excluded from the rest of society, something the group would respond to through its own hostility to outsiders, to the extent that non-conformity with dominant norms often became virtuous. As the subculture became more substantive, distinctive and independent, members would become increasingly dependent on each other for social contact and validation of their beliefs and way of life. The themes of labelling and subcultural dislike of ‘normal’ society are also emphasized in Howard Becker’s work which, among other things, is notable for its emphasis on the...
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