Sub-cultural Capital Theories Essay Example
Sub-cultural Capital Theories Essay Example

Sub-cultural Capital Theories Essay Example

Available Only on StudyHippo
  • Pages: 11 (2828 words)
  • Published: September 26, 2017
  • Type: Case Study
View Entire Sample
Text preview

The thought of subcultural capital is a development of Pierre Bourdieu’s thoughts of cultural capital put frontward inDifferentiations( Bourdieu 1984 ) . Through research questionnaires, Bourdieu observed stratification in society based on economic, societal and cultural background. ‘Capital’ is acquired through background enabling the person to exhibit and to read ‘codes’ such as mode of frock or nutrient penchants. Thornton demonstrates that within subcultures, codifications are used in a similar manner, but subvert the stratification of ‘mainstream society’ , replacing it with a alone subcultural stratification. Foreigners frequently misread the subcultural codifications.

A subculture will, argues Thornton, evolve to retain its codifications as sole so that they are non right read by wider society:

“Its chief adversary is…the media who continually threaten toreleaseits cultural cognition to other societal groups” ( Thornton 1995: 90 )



Thornton’s research was conducted between 1989 and 1992 for a thesis on rave and nine civilization which was subsequently published ( Thornton 1995 ) .


Although based on observations specific to a clip and topographic point, Thornton’s theories are movable. For illustration, her designation of stratification, with DJs and club-owning enterprisers at the top and 14 twelvemonth olds ‘trying excessively hard’ at the underside ( 1995: 12 ) , would use besides to followings of boybands, where praise is gained by holding the most extended aggregation of memorabilia, by meeting graven images and through holding an thorough cognition of band-related information.

Thornton’s work is besides of import in developing definitions. She observes assorted defects in the work of the Birmingham School of the 1970s, peculiarly the Birmingham theorists’ placing of subculture in resistance to the media. She besides argues that Hebdige’s position inSubculture: The Meanin

View entire sample
Join StudyHippo to see entire essay

of Style, that media and commercialism consume subcultures and hence destroy them, is oversimplified. Some media and concerns are “integral to the hallmark of cultural practices” ( Thornton 1995: 9 ) : clubs themselves are the obvious illustration, vital to the subculture but run as concerns.

Thornton besides differentiates between media sections: while yellow journalisms ab initio demonised the scene so pushed its symbols ( such as the Smiley ) into mainstream manner, taking their currency within the subculture by uncovering the codification, some journalists worked to perpetuate the subculture. Thornton interviews David Swindells, a music journalist and lensman, who avoids composing about drugs: “My occupation is to state people what is go oning without endangering the scene” ( Thornton 1995: 146 ) . The interaction is non every bit simple as yellow journalisms destructing the scene and Swindells continuing it, nevertheless, as the tabloids’ initial reaction arguably enhanced its subcultural position as anti-mainstream.

Assorted unfavorable judgments have been made of the subcultural capital theories. Bennett argues Thornton’s work is excessively focused on London. He suggests that “diverse nine cultural terrains identified by Thornton” ( Bennett 2001: 126 ) do non needfully be outside the capital, with Newcastle in peculiar enduring from many nines being closed by the constabulary in 1995. Documentation of the precise inside informations of Thornton’s 200 nine visits is elusive, and it could be argued that even if the research was chiefly carried out in London, theories of subcultural capital should be applicable to any strand of subculture be it local or national. Bennett, nevertheless, sees scope for a more developed theoretical account. He puts frontward the term ‘neo-tribal’ and “the construct of

clubbing as a series of disconnected experiences” ( 2001: 128 )

Possibly the rubric of the published work, mentioning straight to ‘music’ , is flawed, as there is comparatively small geographic expedition of the substance of musical texts nucleus to the subculture under probe. The undertaking has its boundaries set by the research worker and Thornton clearly states her purposes:

“The book does non offer a…textual analysis of their [ subcultures’ ] sounds and manners, but an analysis explicitly concerned with cultural change” ( 1995: 9 ) .

Yet the analysis of nine and rave civilization by other authors, possibly most notably Simon Reynolds inEnergy Flash, focuses to a great extent on the content of the music and how it articulates subcultural codifications: he describes how musical techniques used in house music and techno mirror the experience of taking Ecstasy:

“Processes…are used to tweak the frequences, harmonics and stereo-imaging…the more funktionalist [ sic ] , drug-determined signifiers of rave music are arguably merely truly ‘understood’… by the drugged…” ( Reynolds 1998: twenty-six ) .

Reynolds besides makes clear that rave subculture was specific to Britain, as was the find that certain characteristics of Detroit techno were enhanced by Ecstasy. Derrick May, a innovator of the musical manner, is critical:

“…the signifier and doctrine of it [ techno ] is nil to make with what we originally intended it to be” ( Reynolds 1998: 56-57 ) .

This shows how the music is appropriated by the subculture and certain elements take on a peculiar importance: they become codifications. The ability to read their significance depends on subcultural capital: a ‘true’ member of the rave/club subculture takes Ecstasy and will understand the codification.

Thornton’s apprehension

of her ain place in relation to the subculture she studied is possibly flawed. Aged 23 when her research started, American and come ining the subcultural sphere in a research capacity instead than as portion of her leisure clip, she argues that her place is automatically outside the civilization, dominated by 15-22 twelvemonth olds ( Thornton 1995: 2 ) . Yet in other parts of the book, she becomes non merely an insider, but one comparatively high up the subcultural ladder as she goes clubbing with ‘Kate’ , whose brother is a clubowner. Thornton additions particular entree to the VIP country and portions Ecstasy with ‘Kate’ ( 1995: 87-89 ) .

In her pursuit for the reliable experience ( Thornton says she is taking Ecstasy in the name of research ) , credence by a subculture wary of foreigners suggests that Thornton is take parting more profoundly in the subcultural rites by manner of her apprehension of the codifications and ability to read and expose them – helped, no uncertainty, by her age being so near to the demographic she was analyzing. Had Thornton been middle-aged and with a reluctance to take part in the subculture’s rites, would her topics have been so extroverted? At what point does a research worker go a member of the subculture? And does this lead to a less nonsubjective position of the subculture?

In contrast, Reynolds identifies himself as a participator in club civilization ( 1998: fifteen ) , possibly to give his book credibleness. It could even be argued that the contrast of Thornton’s claim for sing as an ‘outsider’ and Reynolds’ placement as a ‘participator’ are codifications to be

read by members of two other subcultures, academe and music news media severally, with their different methodological analysiss. Academia observes objectively from a distance while news media favours the close-up.

Reynolds’Energy Flashwas published three old ages after Thornton’sClub Cultures, hence has the advantage of being able to analyze ulterior developments in the scene. Thus dance music develops a Large Beat manner ( a dance-rock loanblend pioneered by creative persons such as the Chemical Brothers and Prodigy ) , and its “jagged, epileptic eclectic method reflects the polydrug norms of the late nineties” ( Reynolds 1998: 426 ) – the musical codifications continue to switch.

Since Reynolds’ book was published, club civilization has continued to germinate, but house/techno is no longer seen as a ‘deviant’ subculture: media concern has more late focused on certain strands within the UK Garage scene, links between music and gun civilization and a demonization of hooded tops. Furthermore, engineering has had a immense impact on communications and media in the last five old ages, impacting societal interaction and therefore the application of subcultural capital.

The value of Thornton’s construct of subcultural capital depends on its part and utility in subsequent survey. Do Thornton’s thoughts have acceptance in a society transformed by widespread cyberspace, nomadic phone and MP3 use?

The practical cognition required for building and keeping a web sphere and website – and the cost – means that web sites are on the whole created by those with the needed cognition and engineering. One could present the construct of technological capital to Bourdieu’s theories, and this seems to hold a moulding influence on the design and construction of web sites. Those without the technological capital,

or the economic capital to outsource, make non hold web sites.

An illustration of a web site designed to appeal to ‘Grime’ fans ( Grime being a subgenre of UK Garage ) is the official Lady Sovereign site ( ) . It uses lively collage-effect imagination and life against a brick wall background daubed with graffito: one would non necessitate any subcultural expertness to read the ocular codifications as implying interior metropolis. An unsmiling image of the creative person have oning a ‘hoodie’ is a strong mention to youth civilization, read by the mainstream as debatable. The creative person has spearheaded a run to ‘save the hoodie’ after a widely-reported prohibition imposed by Bluewater Shopping Centre on have oning hooded tops. The commercial nature of the run is evidenced by the ‘Save the Hoodie’ logo being a registered hallmark and Lady Sovereign’s individual ‘Hoodie’ released in November 2005 to co-occur with the run. The linguistic communication used on the web site is standard English and the site appears to be the work of Universal Records: registering to have Lady Sov updates includes boxes to click to avoid having selling messages sing other Universal creative persons.

However, message boards provide a more unfastened forum for participants without the capital to develop a web site, and a Lady Sovereign message board, independent of Universal’s control, shows subcultural and cultural capitals interacting.

The most dramatic component of message boards is the broad usage of ‘text speak’ , a stenography that lends itself to mobile phone messaging that uses slightly arbitrary spelling but is widely understood and has its ain cultural conventions –for illustration, usage of the figure 8 as a

replacement for ‘ate’ in words such as later ( which becomes l8er ) . Subcultures associating to UK Garage-influenced music such as Lady Sovereign besides use a intercrossed signifier of English with elements of ‘gangsta speak’ and Jamaican slang. The message board is on the web site of Jack Mottram ( a free-lance humanistic disciplines author and ‘Sov’ fan ) .

Example 1: `` I fink lady soveriegn district attorney best megahertz eva“

Posted by a visitant to the site, ‘Mike’ . ‘Da’ substituted for ‘the’ is widely used among urban young person subcultures and shows a patois influence. As UK Garage is to a great extent influenced by black music, this could be a subcultural codification. Although Lady Sovereign is white, white acceptance of black cultural mentions is widespread in youth subculture – possibly to get a sense of distinctness by allying itself with a subdivision of society widely missing the cultural capital to be recognised and valued within the mainstream.

Example 2: Future homophobic remarks will be deleted ( presuming I can interpret them from txt monosodium glutamate linguistic communication! )

Jack Mottram tries to chair the message board, admiting that he is non fluid in the subcultural linguistic communication being widely used on it, and recognizing his place as an ‘outsider’ .


A visitant to the site fails to hold on the usage of linguistic communication as a subcultural codification instead than an inability to utilize conventional English, and a ‘heated debate’ between the cultural and subcultural ensues as a group with higherculturalposition confuses their capital

with that required for highsubculturalposition. Note that statements are put frontward in the writer’s linguistic communication of ( bomber ) cultural individuality, but by and large understood by all those posting.

Example 4: shes phat m8 so wholly u state bumpkins sittin in ur mansion…

The writer of this station misreads mainstream civilization. The dictionary defines ‘bumpkin’ as a ‘rustic or socially awkward person’ ( Allen 1991: 148 ) – barely person with sufficient mainstream cultural, societal or economic capital to populate in a sign of the zodiac. The usage of rural as oppositional to inner metropolis is a gawky effort at an opposite to underscore difference. ‘Phat’ is a widely-used positive term which originated in hiphop civilization, influential on UK Garage parlances. The importance of its spelling demonstrates that the subculture is overthrowing intending through spelling instead than ‘spelling badly.’

Authenticity of Lady Sovereign is debated by those on the message board – this was another cardinal consideration of Thornton’s theories. It is argued that she is non truly ‘from the ghetto’ . Concepts of genuineness in this subculture relate to an inversion of the British category system: genuineness comes from interior metropolis want. This contrasts with club/rave which was non class-specific.

This presents another trouble in analyzing certain subcultures. Background was far less of an issue in club/rave civilization and Thornton’s engagement in it was made easier by this. The ‘Grime’ manner which Lady Sovereign is an advocate of is more class-specific. For academe, which remains mostly middle-class, can this type of subculture be studied with the same degree of engagement as Thornton enjoyed?

While the message board represents a new forum for detecting subcultural capital in action,

other media are diminishing in significance and the intangible is going of import. For many immature people, the purchase of a Cadmium is unneeded when it is possible to download a path or two and salvage on the full monetary value. The subcultural capital of the record aggregation – vinyl LPs with psychedelic graphics of the late 60s/early 70s, or white label imports for rave/club civilization, or merely shelves of Cadmiums – giving its proprietor praise is less and less a characteristic of young person subcultures. The iPod is the focal point instead than its contents. The 79p path is non an investing in the same manner as the ?10 Cadmium, and its tangibleness possibly less of an issue for this ground.

Statements of musical gustatory sensation are alternatively made through ringtones, which have their ain subcultural capital: if on hearing person else’s ringtone, it can be identified after a few seconds, it will pass on information about the phone’s proprietor as musical gustatory sensations relate to subcultural individuality. If unidentifiable, a hearer is non party to the information.

It is important that ( 1 ) placing a ringtone and ( 2 ) genuineness demanding a ghetto upbringing are both elements of subcultures that even the various cyberspace can non convey to foreigners easy, therefore less menace from media ‘revealing codes’ .

It is apparent from the above that Thornton’s theories have wide applications and can be applied to the usage of new engineerings by modern-day subcultures.

Thornton goes some manner to constructing a more elusive theory than predecessors such as the Birmingham school, uncovering more complex interactions between commercialism, media and subcultures, and, ten old ages on, it

would look that Thornton’s constructs lend themselves to the development of a more structured model for the analysis of new media and its usage by subcultures.

While Thornton’s thoughts are a utile measure frontward in cultural theory, the trouble of incorporating subjects to analyze subcultures means that more thorough readings remain elusive.

Allen R ( 1991 ) Concise Oxford Dictionary 8ThursdayEdition, W H Smith Edition ( Oxford University Press, Oxford )

Bassett C ( 1995 )Virtually Gendered – Life in an Online Universein Ed. Gelder K and Thornton S ( 1997 )The Subcultures Reader( Routledge, London ) pp537-550

Branston G and Stafford R ( 2003 )The Media Student’s Book3rdEdition ( Routledge, London )

Bourdieu P ( 1984 )Differentiation: A Social Critique of the Judgement of TasteTrans. Nice R ( Routledge, London )

Chambers I ( 1986 )Popular Culture: The Metropolitan Experience( Routledge, London )

Christopher D ( 1999 )British Culture: An Introduction( Routledge, London )

Cohen S ( 1987 )Folk Devils and Moral Panic: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers( Basil Blackwell, Oxford )

Collin M ( 1997 )Altered State: The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid House( Serpent’s Tail, London )

Grossburg L ( 1984 )Another Boring Day in Paradise: Rock and axial rotation and the authorization of mundane lifein Ed. Gelder K and Thornton S ( 1997 )The Subcultures Reader( Routledge, London ) pp477-493

Hebdige D ( 1983 )Posing…Threats, Striking…Poses: Young person, surveillance and showin Ed. Gelder K and Thornton S ( 1997 )The Subcultures Reader( Routledge, London ) pp393-405

Hebdige D ( 1988 )Hiding in the Light: On Images and Thingss( Routledge, London )

Middleton R ( 1990 )Analyzing Popular Music( Open University

Press, Milton Keynes )

Redhead S ( 1993 )Rave Off: Politicss and Deviance in Contemporary Youth Culture( Avebury, Aldershot )

Reynolds S ( 1998 )Energy Flash: A Journey through Rave Music and Dance Culture( Picador, 1998 )

Strasburger V and Wilson B ( 2002 )Children, Adolescents and the Media( Sage, California )

Straw W ( 1995 )The Booth, the Floor and the Wall: Dance Music and the Fear of Fallingin Ed. Straw W et Al ( 1995 )Popular Music – Style and Identity: International Association for the Study of Popular Music 7ThursdayInternational Conference( Centre for Research on Canadian Cultural Industries and Institutions, Montreal )

Tomlinson L ( 1998 )This Ain’t No Disco – Or Is It? Youth Culture and the Rave Phenomenonin Ed. Epstein J ( 1998 )Youth Culture: Identity in a Postmodern World( Blackwell, Oxford ) pp195-211

Whiteley S ( 1992 )The Space Between the Notes: Rock and the Counterculture( Routledge, London )

hypertext transfer protocol: // talkboard

Get an explanation on any task
Get unstuck with the help of our AI assistant in seconds