Youth culture

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Youth cultures can be regarded as a symbolically relevant field of agency, in which young people can invent themselves according to subjective relevance, individually appropriated life styles and collective trends. Here they can find ‘imaginary solutions’ for some of their transition problems. However, by creating new symbolic systems they do more than just coping with their problems. Moreover, by developing their self-images they engage in identity work and simultaneously accumulate youth cultural capital. Although the field of youth cultures is also a powerful consumer market, its inventive forces always come from the bottom of (mostly urban) sub-cultures. This specific dynamic legitimates the further use of the term “sub-culture”, although it must not be equated either with a general resisting attitude (as has been done in the first studies on (male) youth cultures by the Birmingham CCCS), or with one specific youth culture. Late-modern youth cultures seem to consist of bricolage, sampling, and style- management. This sampling, which from an adult’s perspective appears as confusing, carries some potential for (precarious forms of) social integration.


Muggleton, David (2000) ‘Inside Subculture: The Postmodern Meaning of Style.’ Oxford: Berg.

Raffo, Carlo & Reeves, Michelle (2000) ‘Youth Transitions and Social Exclusion: Developments in Social Capital Theory’, Journal of Youth Studies 3(2): 147-166.

Willis, Paul (1978) ‘Profane Culture’, Lodon: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

(John Litau & Barbara Stauber)