Glover, T. (2003) 'Regulating the Rave Scene: Exploring the Policy Alternatives of Government', in Leisure Sciences, Vol 25: 307 - 325.
[An interesting take on the dilemmas and problems in a North American context. Rather uncertain about how to explain rave culture, though, oscillating between gramscian and liberal perspectives. Overrall, far les detailed and critical than Critcher].
Leisure has definite benefits, including psychological ones. These benefits need to be tied clearly to participation in a particular leisure activity, however, and benefits depend on values. Nevertheless, this sort of inquiry has been confined to legal and socially approved forms, despite the fact that '"many of the most popular activities are illegal"' [citing Rojek, page 308]. Rojek also points out that leisure has always had an unofficial or illegal dimension since it sets out to contrast itself to work values and takes place away from surveillance. Adolescents are particularly prone to be attracted to such activities [Glover wants to connect up some psychological stuff on adolescence and identity formation with 'resistance to hegemonic adult culture' (308)].
This leads to rave and its association with deviant behaviour. [Glover uses Tomlinson's definition of rave as all night dance held in unofficial venues -- maybe this rave scene still persists, at least in the USA and Canada?]. Glover cautions the reader that raves might vary considerably, and claims there is little analysis in the leisure literature [he does cite some UK case-studies]. Rave is associated with the use of E, and a number of deaths related to drug-taking have occurred across North America [Glover cites some press coverage and demands for tougher penalties -- 309]. However tougher policing is not the only alternative.
Adolescents are likely to feel precarious and alienated, since they are between roles. Thornton is cited here to justify the view that subcultures helped them to rediscover an identity and thus 'serve as avenues for resistance' (310) [Thornton surely dissociates herself from this pretty rapidly?. The reference for this piece is rather odd, and Thornton is referred to as Thorton throughout, but I assume it is the same piece]. At the same time, rave culture is 'retreatist' [but only at weekends surely?], in that ravers see mainstream society as a secondary form of existence: in that this involves a rejection of the central work ethics, this is also 'subversive, and, therefore, regarded as a form of deviance' (311). [If the sub culture is retreatist, and if it does permit people to accommodate themselves to mainstream values, it is probably best described as deviance in sociological terms too?].
Rave is described, mostly relying on Canadian and North American sources:
(1) Rave is a taste culture, but a complex one, differing from event to event and with a wide spectrum of groups participating [Thornton is cited, but not her explanation for this complexity and variety, which is that it is a function of commercialisation].
(2) Participants [citing a study of Toronto?] are predominantly Caucasian, young and equally divided among males and females. They are also predominantly middle-class, mostly because of the expense of participating. Rave can be a substitute for missing community, especially as it offers a sense of belonging and shared experience. It is also compatible with a middle-class lifestyle such as attending school. Rave is therefore a 'mini vacation' from a bland suburban life. 'In this sense, rave appears to serve as an example of both resistance and reproduction' (312) [quite so, but which predominates?].
(3) Certain types of clothing indicate membership, it is often 'androgynous and modest' (312). This and the adoption of children's toys and so on might be seen as 'sartorially deferring adulthood' (citing Tomlinson, page 312). Some female ravers have now 'adopted more suggestive forms of attire', as clubbers enter the rave scene (312). There is also some evidence of retro and club style clothing [based on the Toronto study again]. There is a tendency for these people to be resisted as outsiders.
(4) Raves are created within private spaces [much of the discussion here turns on the old illegal and unofficial ones, where ravers had to be in a network in order to find out where the rave was being held]. Such places can challenge hegemonic culture, especially if made illegal. However many raves are now held on public licensed premises [which have less potential as a site for hegemonic challenge?].
(5) Techno was the original musical form, but other genres developed as well, offering 'slightly different musical structures' [not to the participants?] (314). The absence of lyrics can be seen as 'apolitical and inclusive' (314), and emphasises the importance of dance and bodily participation. Ravers dance to lose the self [citing Melechi, but with none of the critical postmodernist undertones]. DJs become important, and they guide the crowd, but they are not stars [denied later on]. This, and the absence of specific artists, helps 'place the community above the individual' (314).
(6) Alcohol is relatively absent, but other drugs predominate, especially E. [A short history follows, 315]. Some user report data suggests euphoria and closeness, and helps 'negotiate the constraints of participation, namely to overcome social barriers' (315). Reynolds suggests that it is androgynous and reduces the sexual drive: this can be interpreted in [pretty dodgy] Freudian terms as a submersion in the sensuality of the body.
Glover refers us to Critcher for further details, and returns to positive and negative aspects of the leisure activity. Raves foster community, minimise violence aggressiveness and reduce social barriers [according to ravers themselves]. There is an apparent inclusiveness regardless of 'clothing, physical appearance, sexual orientation or dancing ability' (316), and an openness towards traditionally marginalised groups, including women. Women are able to find a space that does not involve sexual invitation. Negative aspects include recreational drug use, with possible harmful effects, including severe toxicity [and some cases are cited where Ecstasy has been blamed for physical damage -- 316]. Dosages are unpredictable, and knowledge limited, despite attempts to launch awareness programmes.
The debates about banning raves turn on the issue of liberty. J S Mill offers some criteria, based on the prevention of harm to others, rather than whether actions are offensive to others. Raves might offer an actual threat to central values, especially delayed gratification, and to mainstream middle-class American values. Critcher suggests that a moral panic is responsible.
Banning raves might be justified if: the behaviour was difficult to avoid; if it had to take place in an area where the public could witness it; if expressed 'an ideology or ideal' that could not be defended in terms of freedom of speech; if it was widely regarded as deeply objectionable [these criteria are based on the work of Bowie and Simon, page 318]. Glover thinks that rave can justify itself against all these criteria or -- you have to seek out the activity, it offers counter-hegemonic culture [which is good and not a threat to genuine consensus among the community?], there are no victims, and there are some alternatives to outright bans.
The alternatives include:
(1) Tolerance -- ignoring rave and hoping that it becomes incorporated into mainstream culture, through commodification, for example. This might already have begun, with participants to do not share the underlying values of rave culture, and the production of formerly underground music. 'The alienation of youth is a common marketing strategy' (320). DJs have been able to demand large fees. Ravers may become divided into true believers and consumers, ceasing simply to be members of their secret society. However tolerance is risky politically.
(2) Prohibition -- new laws, exemplary sentences and increased police action. This is common in the USA, resulting in 'more than half of all police resources nationwide' being devoted to drug-related crime, while 'non-violent drug offenders make up 55.1 per cent of the federal prison population' (321). Long prison sentences might be applied to middle-class kids, and there is a danger that mere experimenters will be particularly harshly punished by having their lives ruined. More policing might force the scene underground, and criminalise supply.
(3) Harm reduction -- while advocating abstinence, provide information and resources to minimise harm. Then venues can be properly licenced so that they meet safety and health standards and adequate security, adequate provision of drinking water, and so on. Awareness campaigns can educate users about health effects. Accurate and non-judgmental information is more likely to be effective, and would probably be welcomed by ravers. [But see Critcher on how the UK press renewed their attacks on rave and drugs following an attempt to introduce harm reduction policies]
Glover thinks it obvious that harm reduction policy should be adopted. Labelling rave culture as deviant 'is simply a matter of subjective valuation' (323) [but doesn't the use of hegemony imply that there are real material interests at work as well? Can harm reduction prevail against these?]. Liberty should be maintained [a bourgeois policy]. Effective policies require consent to their legitimacy [citing Etzioni here -- 323] -- users know that the effects of Ecstasy are far outweighed by the negative side effects of legal drugs. Tolerance cannot be an option for professional politicians. Overall, 'Adult culture would be wise not to impose its will, but rather to teach youth to be sceptical and, more importantly, to be safe' (323) [very modest claims for a counterhegemonic culture!].