Subcultures: Sociology and Chicago School

This essay explores firstly the insight offered by applying aspects of the Chicago School’s theory, specifically the Concentric Zone Model and analysis of the City, to the subcultures group of gangs. Their ideas will be explored and contrasted with those in Brown, Vigil and Taylor 2012 article: “The Categorization of Blacks in Los Angles: the Emergence of Street Gangs”.Further to this I will analyses the limitations of the Chicago Schools theory and contrast this with insight offered form the Birmingham School of thought. The notion of culture can be conceptualized in a variety of different ways but in mineral terms can be purported to encompass the behavioral norms of a society and the knowledge, beliefs and laws which inform their customs (Taylor, 1871). Similarly, the definition Of what constitutes a subculture is contested and open to multiple interpretations.The common theme of subcultures definitions includes the notion that subcultures “construct, perceive and portray” themselves as isolated groups separate from the parent culture (Macdonald, 2001, 152).

The relationship be;en culture and subculture can arguably be understood through the subcultures “subordinate, subaltern and subterranean” relationship principally the vestures inferior status which has been conferred through conceptual difference (Thornton, 1995, 4).The Chicago School was established in 1 982 and remained at the pinnacle of sociological thought through to the late sass. The American sociological tradition, which was influenced greatly by the work of Druthers, Simmer and Townies, has focused largely on the ecological model of society and on the emergence of subcultures, a result of arbitration with the City at the Crux of social investigation (Williams, 2007). Central to the school’s work on the city is Park and Burgess Concentric ZoneModel which uses an amalgamation of ethnographic methods and ecology to construct a diagram of urban land use (Mansions and Plumper, 2005). The Concentric Zone Model theory proposes that the form of the City falls into five concentric rings, formed through an organic rhythm as opposed to strategic forethought. Each band is colored by levels of desirability and the social consequences of each zone, with the city centre as the most degenerate area impacted highly by social changes such as poverty, overcrowding and immigration (Mansions and Plumper, 2005).Social dislocations, such as: gangs, violence and crime, for the Chicago School are ironically considered to be consequences of the “intersection of urban ecology and social stratification” (Headgear).

Brown, Vigil and Tailor’s article focuses on the lived reality of the African-American community from a historical perspective in an attempt to explain gang formation and in doing so stresses the significance Of the effects Of racism. Central to their argue meet is the concept of multiple marginality who ICC reflects the complexities and persistence of racial forces on the African-American experience (Vigil, 1978).The image of the African-American community is arguably intrinsically linked tit that of, guns, drugs, gangs and murder making it hard to separate the two ideals from each other however this negates the fact that the African- American community thrived for over a century and a half before the conditions deteriorated (Brown, Vigil, Taylor, 2012, 225). The rise of gangs was a result of the normalization of the Black community which ranged from employment discrimination to social segregation, a process by which the opportunities and prospects of both adults and youth in the community was severely limited (Degrade, 1980).The Chicago Schools explanation for the cause of gangs contrasts that which s presented in the article. Robert Park, suggested that gangs are a result of “city wilderness” influenced by their location in the concentric zone model without regard to race, creed or color (Park, 1927). Brown, Vigil and Tailor’s article proposes that this idea overlooks the way in which the African- Americans place in the Concentric Zone model was determined by racist attitudes.

Vigil (1980) suggests that, the African-Americans living in Chicago Were forcibly segregated and relegated to the fringes of society into the least desirable social and economic conditions at the city centre as a result of their ace. The two theories align in the sense that the further away you get from the city centre the better off you are but disagree as to why this is. This fundamental difference in thinking leads to different conceptions of gangs, with the Concentric Zone Model offering a useful description of crime and gang stratification but failing to provide an accurate explanation.Cohen and Taylor (1 989), suggest that the importance the Chicago school places on space overlooks the fundamental issue of race which fundamentally shaped Chicago and is inextricably linked with the division of class and opportunity. The Chicago School overlooked the importance of the African-Americans forced segregation and rather focused on other ethnic group’s successful assimilation and successful social mobility through the process of succession and dominance, options not available to the African-American population.Further criticism of the Chicago Schools theory is historically and contextually specific and therefore dated in its relevance, for example, in Auckland, the City Centre rent prices are higher than those on the outskirts, which is essentially the opposite to the Concentric Zone Model (Macro Auckland, n. ).

The ideas of the Birmingham school (CSS) broke away from the concepts of the Chicago School favoring a neo-Marxian approach focusing on class and power. The CSS rejected the ethnographic approach of the American tradition and focused on semiotic analysis in an attempt to deconstruct the assigned meanings of subcultures.The CSS focused on the emergence of youth subcultures in Britain however their theory is useful in the analysis of gangs in Chicago as it introduces the idea of subcultures as a site Of resistance against the parent culture (Clarke et al. 1976). Rapid migration into he Transitional Zone of the City produced ramifications that the African- American community were unable to deal with further increasing their racial isolation, which accompanied with racial oppression lead to the emergence of African- American gangs as a form of retaliation (Collins, 1977).African- American gangs such as the Black Panther movement engaged in political action against the oppressive actions of the white powers and were often acts of self-defense as opposed to provocation. The larger gangs were disseminated in the late 1 sass resulting in a generation of youth without role oodles in search of a new identity that was ultimately found in gang life (Alonso, 1999).

The formation of gangs and gang membership initially provided as a means of social resistance but was transformed into bonds of necessity as the youth required protection from external threats and rivalries.Further to this the youth were largely uneducated which made opportunities available to them limited, the youth sought employment and the gangs offered drug sale commissions and robberies (Davis, 1992). In conclusion, our understanding of subcultures can be enhanced through the academic abates of subcultures theorists. The Chicago Schools work on the Concentric Zone Model revealed the Way in which the early city of Chicago was divided in terms of urban ecology.While the article by Brown, Vigil and Taylor contest the idea that the concentric bands have been formed through organic rhythm and proposes rather that this has taken place through the historical patterns of racism. In contrast the work of the Birmingham School allows for the deconstruction of the norms that are usually inferred to present Brown, Vigil and Tailor’s premise that gang culture is not inherent to African-American society but rather as a socialized habit.Despite the limitations of each theory, their contribution to the understating of subcultures activity has successfully enhanced and deepened the multiple understandings that we have of subcultures groupings and have assisted in providing a language to code the way that we analysis them.

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