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Essay on Socialization: Issues of Youth Culture

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Sociology- socialization, and culture

1. Read the item below and answer the following questions.

All social groups, whether small or large, have to find ways of ensuring their members follow norms and values. In society, different groups use social control to maintain order. Teachers, for example, use detention if students go against the norms and values of the school. Social control may also be achieved by using rewards.

(a) With reference to the item and sociological knowledge, explain the meaning of the term social control. [5]

Social control is the use of rules and certain standards that are put in place to keep groups and individuals bound to conventional norms, values and behaviors. The item describes it as ensuring members follow norms and values, and the item also uses the example of the education system. This is a good example because teachers and staff use social control to make sure students stay within the rules, so they do not become deviant and join anti-school cultures. Social control can also be described as the control of society over the individual.

(b) Using material from the item and sociological knowledge, explain how any two agents of socialization control behavior.

Agents of socialization have the ability to enforce social norms and values on an individual. These include the family and peer groups. The family in known by functionalists as the most important agent of socialization as it teaches young children the basic norms and values that is expected by society. If socialization at this stage fails, then the children will become feral. The family works as an agent of socialization by impressing ideas and behaviors upon a child. For example, parents will pass on behaviors such as dress as well as gender ideologies.

(c) Discuss the relationship between ethnicity and youth culture

Society includes many different ethnic groups. Ethnicity can be a vital part of identity and culture. For example, in Britain, ethnic minorities are often people whose families arrived from former Ethic minority groups and commonly use youth subcultures as an escape of racism and discrimination. For example, you could argue that black, Asian and minority ethnic youths join youth cultures to avoid discrimination, especially in schools or education environments. Gilborn found that black children of ethnic minorities were being very harshly penalized by teachers and other staff for ‘deviant’ behavior. This can be easily backed up as there are higher exclusion rates for black boys than any other group. This understandably has led to more conflict and caused children to fall into anti-school subcultures, as a defense mechanism to racism within the education system. A counter-argument of Gilborn’s findings are from a 1997 study conducted by Sewell, it is argued that a culture of hyper-masculinity ascribed to by some (but not all) black boys is one of the main factors explaining the poor performance of black boys in the education system. Sewell found that an extremely high proportion of Black Caribbean boys are raised in a single-mother household, with the father not being present or absent for some years of the child’s development. In the late 1990s when Sewell carried out his study, 57% of Black Caribbean families with dependent children (any person aged 0-15 in a household) were raised by a single parent. On the other hand, only 25% of white children were raised by single parents. This means that many black boys do not have a father figure to act as a role model and provide discipline while they are growing up, which makes this group in particular more vulnerable to factors such as peer pressure which is already common enough within youth cultures. Young black men are disproportionately drawn into gang culture from an increasingly young age which in turn emphasizes an aggressive, macho form of masculinity that heavily promotes the use of violence as a way to gain respect. Gang culture also values materialist displays of wealth such as the latest expensive clothing brands and crime, rather than actual ‘hard work as a quick and easy route to financial well-being, rather than a proper career. This is seen as a result of lack of a father figure. So, from this evidence, it is clear that those of ethnic minorities may join youth cultures to be able to cope and protect themselves against discrimination. This study is a direct counterpoint to previous studies such as those by Wright and Gilborn because it puts Gilborn put the emphasis on negative teacher labeling as the main explanation for differential achievement depending on ethnicity, while Sewell argued that other things like hyper-masculinity and home life were to blame.

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Similarly, ethnic minority youth cultures also develop in response to negative labeling outside of the education system. Gilroy found that the police wrongly label ethnic youth groups as a problem. This is known as a moral panic. A moral panic is a widespread fear, very often a false one, that someone holds a possible threat to the norms, values and interests of a community. Usually, a moral panic is spread by the news and media, furthermore, driven by politicians. An article I have found published by Scott Poynting in 2001 details a moral panic in the years 1998–2000 about something called “ethnic gangs” in Sydney’s southwestern suburbs and studies the ideologies of the links between ethnicity, youth and crime. It documents the labeling and targeting of immigrant young people which misread mainly class-related social realities as racial, and then the distribution of these representations by media, and police. The data used in this analysis mainly contained interviews with Lebanese-Australian youth, Lebanese immigrant parents, ethnic community workers, community leaders and police. Other, more well-known labeling includes the moral panic that caused police to stop and search black youths a lot more. This is very evident in some first-world countries like the US and England as black men are 7x more likely to be stopped. This has partly led to the creation of deviant youth cultures, as people become angry and increasingly more hostile with the police due to the apparent racism within the system. Gilroy also argued that crime amongst Black British ethnic groups was a reaction to the white dominance in former colonies such as Jamaica. When early migrants first came to Britain, they immediately faced discrimination and hostility, and subsequently drew upon the tradition of anticolonial struggle to develop cultures of resistance against white-dominated authorities such as police forces. This theory however is heavily criticized by Lea and Young (1984) on several grounds: firstly, first-generation immigrants were in reality very law-abiding citizens and as a result did not resist the colony of Britain and were less likely to pass this anti-colonial stance to their kids (the next generation). Secondly, most crime is against other people of the same ethnic group and therefore cannot be seen as resistance to racism. Lea and Young also criticized Gilroy for romanticizing the criminals as in a way revolutionary. Asian crime rates are similar or lower than whites, which would mean the police were only racist towards blacks, which is highly unlikely. Most crime is reported to the police not completely uncovered by them, so it can be difficult to suggest racism within the police itself. In conclusion to the evidence provided, it is clear that people also join youth cultures in response to negative labeling and to resist the stigma by organizations on ‘BAME’ youths.

Furthermore, some ethnic youth cultures are a response to racism and a form of resistance to white culture. Hebdige argues that the Rastafarians are an example of resistance to white culture. It is seen as not just a political movement, but also a spiritual movement, giving its followers a positive identity and a valid way to oppose racism. Dick Hebdige (1979) however argues that because subcultures stem from deviance, they usually consist of working-class cultures and individuals. Essentially, youth cultures attempt to fix their status problems by creating a new subculture and establishing new norms and values that do not conform to the mainstream culture’s norms. These new norms also contain ideological meanings and contain highly symbolic forms of resistance. Additionally, subcultures often take objects and clothing/ music styles of the mainstream culture and appropriate them in order to demonstrate a new meaning. The Rastafarians for example use their clothing and style as a symbolic form of resistance, such as dreadlocks, reggae music and wearing the colors of the Ethiopian flag. In more recent times, whole movements and cultures have been created by instances of ethnic oppression. Due to the blatant disadvantages that some ethnicities experience in today’s society, resistant movements and cultural groups often form from oppressed ethnic groups. There are currently many examples of active resistance in concerning race/ ethnicity such as the Black Lives Matter movement and pro-immigration marches. Many more people take part in passive resistance through actions such as listening to specific genres of music such as rap or hip-hop, as they tend to criticize the presence of white supremacy in governmental structures. Harrison (2008) argues many artists that produce this music promote the so-called “ghetto lifestyle” which considerably deviates from hegemonic norms of polite and submissive living. Hip Hop artists claim racial authenticity in their work, implying that because of their racial identity, they can best represent oppressed racial groups. Hegemonic cultural values dictate that this music and the people who associate with it are deviant because they challenge the dominance of white culture. It is apparent that some ethnic youth cultures arise to oppose mainstream culture and racism.

Additionally, some youth cultures act simply as an expression of pride and cultural heritage. For example, Johal found that some British Asians celebrate parts of their own parental culture whilst rejecting other aspects of British culture, this is known as Brazilian culture. Johal argues that they have adopted a racially fluid style, so they have the ability to switch between the two cultures to whatever suits them. This could be changing between parts of their diet, marriage traditions, and religious preferences. Johal (1998) has also suggested that religious identity is increasingly important in a multi-cultural and multi-faith society such as Britain. This ties in with Modood’s research about British Muslims and is supported by Grace Davie (1994) who suggests that religious identity provides a sense of belonging and cultural identity. They decide what they like depending on their preferences. So, it is clear that youth culture can be a way for people to stay in touch with their heritage, but also connect with a new culture.

Some on the other hand believe that ethnicity and youth cultures have no real relationship anymore. For example, postmodernists argue that youth cultures are much more fluid than when they used to be in the mid to late 20th century, and they are therefore less important. Postmodern beliefs also say that youth subcultures are no longer relevant in today’s society, and they instead suggest that youth styles have become increasingly broken up and divided, and diverse. Youth styles are now fluid (changing, flowing) and are no longer based and fixed on class lines, gender or ethnicity. Bennett (1999) came up with the term ‘neo tribes’ as he found that young people could move in and out of different youth cultures with others over a period of time. He suggested this was because there was a wider choice of styles, the period of youth was longer, and changing nature of youth. This could also be because of new technology and young people becoming more affluent; they have the ability to discover cultures that suit them more than others and have the money to consume products of the culture.

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