There is a really interesting piece on youth subcultures by Alexis Petridis in The Guardian. He attempts to think through the forms that subcultures take today, using examples and some reflections from sociologists. The piece raises some questions about the possibility and form of contemporary scenes, movements and subcultures. Alexis asks some really important questions in the piece and considers a range of possibilities and potential causes for what appear to be transformations in subcultures. He concludes that despite the perseverance of certain visible subcultures it may be that the very concept of subculture is no longer fitting for understanding youth cultures. As he puts it:
‘It’s hard not to be struck by the sensation that, emos and metalheads aside, what you might call the 20th-century idea of a youth subculture is now just outmoded. The internet doesn’t spawn mass movements, bonded together by a shared taste in music, fashion and ownership of subcultural capital: it spawns brief, microcosmic ones.’
This article could prove really useful in sparking student discussions on subcultures. One of the problems with the term is its conceptual baggage, subculture has been used in so many different ways that it has probably lost some of its purchase. It would seem that we either need a renewed engagement with the concept that reanimates it and uses it to reveal the nature of contemporary cultural movements. Or we need to devise a new terminology that works for understanding these cultural formations. This work is being done though – there is quite a bit being done in subcultural and post-subcultural studies. I’ve also seen some really interesting work on the types of questions that Petridis’ article raises by undergraduate and postgraduate students.