Too much too young : British youth culture in the 1990s
The study of youth culture in Britain, after a fertile period in the 1 970s, underwent a fallow stretch in the 1980s. By the 1990s it was being claimed from some quarters that youth culture had ceased to exist. This thesis presents the results of a study of various aspects of contemporary youth culture undertaken in Britain and France with the mixed methodologies of textual secondary source analysis, ethnographic participant observation, semi-structured interviewing and quantitative survey techniques. The central aim was to determine whether and in what forms youth culture exists in contemporary times and to redress some of the earlier imbalances in research on this subject in doing so. There are nine main findings. The first three are concerned with matters of theory and method, the remainder with the empirical work presented in the thesis: 1. It is more useful to draw on several theoretical approaches rather than constrict oneself to singular explanations of 'grand theory.' 2. Furthermore, 'theory' alone is not enough: ethnography is a key instrument for examining youth culture. 3. The exclusively class-based explanations offered by existing British subcultural studies are increasingly untenable given the transient, non-linear youth cultural forms of today. 4. Second generation hybridic British Asian youth cultures, long ignored by subculturalists, are a crucial expanding area. 5. Youth are not simply an 'urban species'; a rich under-researched suburban youth culture also exists, and is worthy of serious study. 6. Our considerations of youth culture should look beyond British shores to parallels with other countries, with whom British youth have many similarities. The expressive postcolonial cultures of French youth are one example, through which we can see both parallels with the British experience, and that there is some evidence for an emergent 'pan European youth culture'. 7. The above developments unfold despite governments' attempts at preserving 'national culture.' 8. Pop music can no longer be seen as a synonym for youth culture. 9. Reports of youth culture's death have been greatly exaggerated. It may not exist as previously conceptualised but it is taking on multiple, shifting meanings in an ageing world.