|Roberts, K. (1997) 'Same activities,
different meanings: British youth cultures in the 1990s', in Leisure Studies,
16,1: 1-- 16.
The article sets out to test whether youth cultures have become more based on consumption, and also more of a source of the creation of identities through consumption. The relevant factors seem to be:
We can consider developments in two stages. Post 1945, the first examples of modern youth subcultures emerged, which were not localized like the pre-war ones, and which featured much more commercialisation. The classics subcultures appear, clearly based on social class and gender divisions, producing the well known CCCS work. Roberts prefers to see this work as indicating the effects of socialization, and youth establishing adult identities: there was certainly little evidence of serious rebellion. Since the 1960s, there have been patterns of change and continuity. There are now a wider age range of participants, [including elderly youth]. Youth unemployment and the lack of cash did not end the interest in participation. The market for youth now spreads to include 30 and 40 year-olds. There is much more female participation in public activity, and there has been much adoption of popular culture by young middle-class persons: the social mixing of the modern education system helps. In evidence, Roberts cites Thornton's argument that the real divisions now turn on tastes rather than social class, and his own work on the 'middle-class takeover'of youth activities (in Leisure Studies, 13: 33 - 48).
There has been a certain splintering in activity rather than the domination of a few particular styles, and the increasing diversity offered by both the markets and the new technology. Some analysts believe that tastes no longer map easily on to class or gender, and that certain pick and mix activities emerge to express individuality. Some authors have identified the emergence of new proto-communities or tribes, especially among football supporters or people who attend raves. These activities seemed to unite people from different backgrounds, so that 'the sole bond is likely to be the leisure taste or activity' (9).
However, actual evidence is not so clear. Data from the ESRC 16 - 19 Initiative (based on four longitudinal surveys) seem to reveal no clear coherences, and no 'clearly defined life orientations' (10). It becomes difficult to condense activities into 'ideal - typical world views' (10). It seems that gender, career, family and educational background correlate more strongly than leisure activities to a set of social and political attitudes such as the stance on sexual equality, fatalism, self-esteem, political awareness and so on. Relations between these aspects of identity and leisure are very low. Leisure participation did enhance self confidence and 'gave [respondents] positive self-images' (11), but participation was 'too transient to answer basic existential questions' (11). Leisure is a chronically unstable area for young people.
Much postmodern is writing is exaggerated anyway, but it seems to stress a break with reality, especially through processes such as decontextualisation and the use of VR technology. Roberts mentions Rojek's example of the collapse of boundaries between living and dead celebrities. These trends are supposed produce disengagement, fantastic involvement, or tribalisation. But even if this were so, this makes leisure very unlikely to be able to offer the basis of a new identity. Indeed, insecurity increases in postmodernism.
Gender and social class seem important by contrast, according to the empirical research cited [some additional material as well as the one cited above]. There are also lifestyle variations within social classes, with some overlap between social classes, [so lifestyle variations can co-exist with the older forms of social groupings and do not have to replace them]. Gay identities have also made little impact on the majority taste for heterosexual identities. First there seems to be no evidence for free-floating identities, nor for the view that leisure is a major factor in identity formation. Leisure is still understood best as having basic functions for youth -- 'fun, diversion, companionship and relaxation' (11). Few adopt leisure activities as a way of life -- for example, a study reveals that even Death Metal fans are really only acting.