Subculture: The Young Generation’s Revolt

Adorned as a classic milestone on the importance of subculture, Hebdige states in his famous novel, “Members of the working-class encounter daily hardships and alienation from the ruling hegemony.” (resonating with Althusser’s interpolation and Marx’s class consciousness as the theoretical framework here).

A translation here is to say that the young generations are hell bent, if you will to endure the same methods and ideologies as what there parents went through. Therefore in order to rebel against the prior generation, youngsters or the upcoming generation creat an individualistic unique style that represents them individually then just a reproduction of their parents generations, manifesting a new culture and ultimately, a brand new identity. The idea of white ethnicity creates a reaction of moral panic defined as, “a feeing of fear spread among a large number of people that some evil threatens the well-being of society, evidently arouses the process of social concern.” Therefore the subculture expands losing its rebellious edge.

An important sector of Chapter 2 of Hebdige’s piece is his discussion of punk culture, as descendants of a lineage. He references punk bands such as Teddy-boys and Skin-heads which had circulated the British punk scene in the 50’s. Merging in chapter 3 is the look of Reggae and Rastafarian subcultures in which uses music to revolt against white ethnicity and the displaced African submission state. “The immigration of Caribbean blacks to the UK has placed them in adjacent geographical and social positions with the British working class and a sort of limited bond began to emerge.”He also touches upon the subculture genres that preceded punk including the emergence of Hippies and Jack Kerouac’s Beatniks group who idolized the black deprived condition state in the way they rebelled through music and traveling “on the road” without a plan other than to explore an open road with no path, no direction, other than how you feel in that current moment. The next phase he hints was Glam and Glitter Rock. He describes this phase as first engaging with the experience of young working and middle class youth to avoiding it by appealing to an aesthetics of avoiding the “real world” and escaping its different issues. This similar idea is one of our very own future tripping in which we too, even in today’s generation hope to escape “life after college” or the fear of the unknown. There’s a calmness to the future as well as chaos, there’s hope and despair with the thought of getting older and arising to the test of your future.

Hebdige uses Punk to return to  the Rastafarian concept of ‘dread’ as inspiration. As Hebdige puts it, “punk was a partial translation of black ethnicity, that is, white ethnicity which lacked the teleological salvationist aspirations and remained with a deep despair on account of England having “no future.””

Punk in Hebdige’s eyes was an attack on conventional meanings which was in a sense a parody on moral panic which was made to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. For this reason, the media plays a vital role in influencing society in order to be weary of it but simultaneously and enthusiastically supporting. Coinciding with the idea that we know their’s corruption within the media but yet we can not turn away.

He explains, punk was a “semantic disturbance” which violated conventional codes and meanings that served society in making sense of the world, the society norm and the overall rules everyone was supposed to abide.  However, Hebdige notes that ways to diffuses punk’s subversive potential, was through turning it into a consumer product and by ideologically relabeling it as natural or otherwise exotic and in any case as meaningless. This ultimately wouldn’t go outside of societal norms because it encouraged the ability of individual expressionism and creating their own identity through revitalizing music as key play of culture.


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