Youth Subcultures

Neo Tribes

Some Sociologists suggest that subcultures may no longer exist in the form that they once did. For example, some would argue that it is no longer possible to identify visible and coherent youth movements, such as mods, rocker and punks.

Even for subcultural writers, such as Dick Hebdige, there is a belief that subcultures were tied to a particular era, and are less applicable to understanding contemporary forms of youth culture or social groupings. As Hebdige (1988: 8) wrote:

Theoretical models are as tied to their own times as the human bodies that produce them. The idea of subculture-as-negation grew up alongside punk, remained inextricably linked to it, and died when it did.

In particular, writers such as Zygmunt Bauman (1992) argue that the certitudes of life, such as class and gender have become less significant in an increasingly unstable and liquid world. Hence, our identities and social groupings necessarily become more diverse and fluid, as individuals seek to move and adapt to their ever-changing world. Hence, some Sociologists such as Bauman argue that there might be more useful terms to describe contemporary social groups, such as, for example, ‘neo-tribes’.

In the article below, French sociologist Michel Maffesoli uses the term ‘urban tribes’ or ‘neo-tribes’ to refer to ways in which groups of people come together in a shared interest. He sees this as a move away from individualism.

Discover More What is your definition of "urban tribes"?
Taking examples from television initially, students could identify programmes which could be seen to have a ‘tribe like’ following. Examples could include Game of Thrones and the Great British Bake-Off. They could consider tribe membership – how much consumption is needed for membership? Additionally what other areas of life have a ‘tribe-like’ following? Clothing and lifestyle brands could feature here, for example Jack Wills, Abercrombie and Fitch and Fred Perry.

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