After the Cultural Turn: Is Class Theory in a Cul-de-Sac?
Moral Panics and Young White Working-Class Identities The Moralising Discourse on Chavs Dr. Elias le Grand Department of Sociology, Stockholm University GEDS, Birkbeck College, University of London Introduction Connecting moral panic panic studies and cultural class analysis Addressing the lack of dialogue between these two
strands of research The volatile social reaction to chavs as a case: how the moralisation of chavs is tied to the dialectical formation of class identities Empirical material from PhD project analysis of public discourse and long-term ethnographic research in South London Argue for the interrelationship between moralisation processes and the cultural dimensions of class Moral panic analysis and the sociology
Moral panics are usually conceived as a sudden, hostile and widespread social reaction over the behaviour of a person or group that are seen to threaten deeply held values the moral order of society and thus cast as folk devils (cf. Cohen, 1972) Widening the focus (Critcher, 2009) of moral panic analysis by connecting it to mainstream currents in social and cultural theory Moral regulation as wider framework for moral panic: Moral panics conceived as strong, sudden, volatile forms of moral regulation (Critcher, 2009; Hier, 2002, 2008, 2011; Hier et al., 2011 ; Hunt, 2011 ) Critcher (2009) distinguishes between three aspects of moralisation processes: (i) moral order, (ii) social control, (iii) ethical self-formation (cf. Foucaults 
notion of governmentality) These important developments have extended the moral panic concept as well as led to a more unified sociology of moralisation However, recent work have failed to engage with class theory (though see Young, 2009; Warner, 2013) Cultural class analysis Class analysis after the cultural turn: A renewed interest in the cultural dimensions of class, including identity, consumption, affects/emotions, symbolic boundaries
Strongly influenced by Bourdieus multi-dimensional notion of class (1984 ; 1987) Classes are conceived as groupings of individuals with differential access to cultural, economic and social capital or resources Class and identity: Beyond class consciousness: focusing on the implicit, mediated ways in which identities are classed Classed hierarchies of moral worth/value Continued expansion of middle-class occupying the normal
and normative (Savage, 2003) Stigmatisation of (many aspects of) working-class culture Lack of research within cultural class analysis of moral panics Linking moralisation and class: dialectics of identity formation How are moralisation processes bound up with class relations? Chavs as a case Interpret the chav phenomenon deploying cultural class analysis and Critchers (2009) three aspects of moralisation
processes: moral order, social control and ethical selfformation The study Extensive qualitative content analysis of public discourse on chavs, on websites, in newspapers and popular culture Long-term ethnographic work in Satellite Town (Nov 2007 Dec 2008) a deprived area located on the outskirts of South London. I lived for five months and conducted participant observation and photo elicitation interviews at two youth clubs in the area. Empirical material analysed with the assistance of Atlas.ti
The social reaction to chavs Chavs in the UK Stigmatising stereotype typically used to label young, white, working-class youths adopting certain markers of style and dress, particularly tracksuits, trainers and jewellery. The emergence of the chav discourse Mentions of the word chav in ten* major national British newspapers, 2003-2012 (Source: LexisNexis Academic) 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
0 390 1339 914 831 627 477 540 586 464 * The Daily Mail, the Daily Star, the Express, the Financial Times, the Guardian, the Independent, the Mirror, the Sun, the Telegraph and the Times. Chavs as threat to the moral order Two quotes from the Daily Telegraph: They are the sullen, pasty-faced youths in hooded tops and spanking-new "prison white" trainers who loiter listlessly on street corners; the slack-jawed girls
with mottled legs, hoop earrings and heavily-gelled hair who squawk at each other in consonant-free estuary English and frighten old ladies on buses. They are the non-respectable working-classes: the dolescroungers, petty criminals, football hooligans and teenage pram-pushers (Lewis, 2004). Chav [is] a suitably monosyllabic noun or adjective designed to illuminate that which is most appalling in the young, designer-labelobsessed under-class of early 21st century Britain. When you see a stunted teenager, apparently jobless, hanging around outside McDonald's dressed in a Burberry baseball Cap, Ben Sherman shirt, ultra-white Reebok trainers and dripping in bling (cheap, tasteless and
usually gold-coloured jewellery), he will almost certainly be a chav. If he has difficulty framing the words "you gotta problem mate?" then he will definitely be a chav. Very short hair and souped-up Vauxhall Novas are chav, as is functional illiteracy, a burgeoning career in petty crime and the wearing of one's mobile telephone around the neck. Chavs are most at home in run-down, small-town shopping precincts, smoking and shouting at their mates. A teenage single mum chewing gum or drawing on a cigarette as she pushes her baby, Keanu, to McDonald's to meet the chav she believes to be his father is a chavette (Tweedie, 2004).
Chav as folk devil a threat to the moral and aesthetic order of British society Moral-aesthetic boundaries: Vulgar, tacky, cheap, excessive forms of consumption, e.g. jewellery, blingy Christmas lighting, fast food, tattoos. Loutish and anti-social behaviour (yob culture, ASBOs) Violent boys in gangs Single teenage mothers; slutty femininity Welfare dependency dole scrounging Marginalized spaces council house estates, McDonalds eateries (acronym: [C]ouncil [H]ouse [a]nd [V]iolent)
Boundaries constructed through mockery (e.g. chav jokes, Vicky Pollard in Little Britain) Chav incorporates two familiar folk devils: (i) young, violent working-class males; (ii) working-class welfare cheats, which includes a gendered social type, namely the single, unwed, young working-class mother. A highly classed label characterized by lack: lack of economic and cultural capital. Categorised as part of the nonrespectable fraction of the British working class Chav discourse linked to marginalised whiteness, which also serves to legitimate it. The denigratory vocabulary would be
unthinkable, i.e. politically incorrect, if applied on other marginalised groups or categories, e.g. non-white minorities, gays, disabled. Denigratory discourse contested, especially by left-wing commentators (e.g. In Owen Jones Chavs: The Demonization of the Working-Class ) Origins of the term chav
Many aspects of phenomenon not new. Young white working-class kids congregating in groups and with low social status since at least the 1990s all over Britain
Local names include: Neds (Glasgow), Kevs (London, Bristol), Charvers (Newcastle), Townies, Steeks, Spides, Bazzas, Ratboys, Kappa Slappas, Skagers, Janners, Stigs, Hood Rats. Chav has become an umbrella term Origin of the term unclear: Romani chavi Cheltenham average Chatham East End of London slang for friend, like mate or mush Chavs as targets of social control
Regulating access to public space: shopping malls, pubs, night clubs and other public establishments (e.g. internet cafs) started banning clothing items (baseball caps, hoodies, tracksuits) or brands associated with chavs (Burberry, Prada) Bluewater shopping centre hoodie ban in 2005 DWP campagn in 2008 against benefit thieves Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) strongly associated with chavs Policing the chav
Regulating access to public space Sign in London pub. Department of Work and Pensions advertising poster Chav ASBOs Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) were issued in 1997 and subsequently strengthened and broadened throughout the UK during 2003-2004
Chavs strongly associated with ASBOs From the website of the Home Office (2009): What is anti-social behaviour? The term anti-social behaviour covers a wide range of selfish and unacceptable activity that can blight the quality of community life. Terms such as nuisance, disorder and harassment are also used to describe some of this behaviour. Examples include: Nuisance neighbours
Yobbish behaviour and intimidating groups taking over public spaces Vandalism, graffiti and fly-posting People dealing and buying drugs on the street People dumping rubbish and abandoned cars Begging and anti-social drinking
The misuse of fireworks Reckless driving of mini-motorbikes. (Home Office, 2009) From the homepage What is anti-social behaviour? (Home Office, 2009) Ethical self-formation: The governance of self and other Beyond moral reformation: chavs mainly targets of social control rather than objects of ethical self-formation
Ethical self-formation plays a greater role on the part of the moralisers: casting chavs as a non-respectable group of white working-class people, is dialectically related to constructing other working-class and middle-class people as respectable and morally righteous. Class contempt serves to reciprocally enhancing and confirming the goodness, self-regard and status of ones own class (Webster, 2008, p. 294). Self-governance and disidentification with chavs
Classed disidentification with the term chav Young people in Satellite Town on their tastes in tattoos Tattoos as inscriptions of love in white British working-class culture (Back, 2006) The case of Holly, 17 years old Katie: I would never wear that. Elias: Have you never had like a name or anything? No? Katie: Only if it feels like... Id have family. But Id never have a boys name.
Elias: So youd have your mums name or something? Katie: Yeah, Id have my mums name. But not in a chav way, like [inaudible] name in Hebrew. Elias: Whats a chav way to have a...? Katie: To have Mum and Dad on a tattoo. Elias: But in Hebrew? Katie: In Hebrew. Elias: So you wouldnt have, like, jewellery with her name or Mum or something? Katie: Oh no! Elias: Okay [laughs at her reaction]. And not names and not your initials
or anything? Katie: [Shakes her head] Conclusion The social reaction to chavs moralisation processes with elements of a moral panic Bound up with long-standing processes of moral distinction against the white British working-class, particularly as regards respectability constructing a respectable/non-respectable binary (cf. Bott, 1964; Skeggs, 1997; Stacey, 1960; Watt, 2006) Dialectics of class identity. The formation of denigratory representations,
which serve to: (a) construct chavs as a stigmatised social identity, positioning certain white working-class people as non-respectable and simultaneously (b) cast certain middle-class and working-class people as respectable and moral. Two general points: (1) Moralisation processes are situated in class relations, i.e. rooted in the unequal access to economic, cultural and social capital/resources between moralisers and moralised (2) Moralisation as performative in constructing class identities moral boundaries and forms of identifications based on class
Conclusion Two general points: (1) Moralisation processes are rooted in class relations (2) Moralisation processes are performative in constructing class identities Notions of respectability central to classed forms of moralisation: casting certain working-class people as nonrespectable, respectable middle-class and working-class people can identify as morally righteous (cf. Bott, 1964; Skeggs, 1997; Stacey, 1960; Watt, 2006).
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