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The Theory Behind Clubbing Sub Cultures Cultural Studies Essay

The Theory Behind Clubbing Sub Cultures Cultural Studies Essay

Published: 23rd March, 2015 Last Edited: 23rd March, 2015

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Sarah Thornton describes club culture as the expression given to youth cultures for whom dance clubs are the symbolic axis and working social hub. She explains that club cultures are constantly associated with a specific space which continually transforms its sounds and styles and regularly bears witness to the excesses of youth cultures. Thornton states that subcultural ideologies are a means by which youth imagine their own and other social groups, assert their distinctive character and affirm that they are not anonymous members of an undifferentiated mass.

In her 1995 book, Club Culture, Thornton refers to the work of Bourdieu and coins the phrase subcultural capital as a comparison to Bourdieu's cultural capital, which is described as a system of distinction in which cultural hierarchies correspond to social ones and people's tastes are predominantly a marker of class. In other words, it is not about what you know but who you know. Thornton argues that clubs are refuges for young people where their rules hold sway. Within these cultural spaces and to some extent outside the spaces, subcultural distinctions have significant consequences.

It is Thornton's belief that this subcultural capital is a status symbol that affects the standing of young people in the eyes of their peers. It can be objectified in the form of fashion and the latest trends in clothes, hair style and record collections. Thornton believes that the cultural form closest to the lives of the majority of British youth is music. This belief ties in with the rise in pop music witnessed in Britain in the 60s as documented by Hall and Whannel in The Young Audience.

Thornton (1997) believes that subculture is, for the youth, a solution to status problems and that people will gravitate towards others with similar problems and create new 'norms' of behaviour. Creating new criteria to define status which encompasses traits and characteristics that they do possess, thus providing a sense of belonging to a group where everybody is similar. This provides people with an accepted social status. It also creates a feeling of solidarity within the group and increases interaction among the participants of the subculture.


In a study titled: The Case for 'Everyday Politics': Evaluating Neo-tribal Theory as a Way to Understand Alternative Forms of Political Participation, Using Electronic Dance Music Culture as an Example, Sarah C.E. Riley, Christine Griffin and Yvette Morey state that:

A variety of cultural practices have been interpreted by analysts as having no meaningful social agenda. Electronic dance music culture, also known as raving or clubbing is such an example, being dismissed as merely a form of entertainment or escapism.

However the authors of this study make the argument that Maffesoli's (1996) neo-tribal theory offers an alternative way to theorise this type of political participation as a kind of 'everyday politics' that can be conceptualised as a form of hedonism and sovereignty over one's own existence.

According to the authors, Maffesoli proposes that contemporary western social organization has developed into a 'neo-tribal' structure in which people move between small and potentially temporary groups distinguished by shared lifestyles and values. These neo-tribes are often elective and are based on consumption practices. Like all tribes, these groups have a collective bond that involves shared values.

Riley et al. quote Maffesoli's statement that neo-tribalism is based on a family-clan-sect structure of mainly elective groups and that these clans provide a sense of solidarity and belonging. The aim for people involved in these tribes is not to change the world, but rather to survive in it. Therefore creating a means of survival through the creation of sites in which to experience communal hedonism and pleasure and clubbing is an excellent example of such activity.

Carnival and Liminality:

David Mario Matsinhe's 2009 paper is based on his study of dance floor culture in Canada. He states that the life processes on the floor are interpreted as manifestations of Canada's emotional history in the form of multiculturalism.

Matsinhe uses the theoretical concepts of carnival and grotesque by Bakhtin and liminality by Turner. As he points out, the experience is all about the emotional refreshment, which could also be classed as a form of escapism.

Matsinhe explains that: Nightclubs are spatial enclaves of decontrolled emotional controls.

Some people attend these clubs to observe rather than participate in the behaviour. He maintains however that the festive mood in these spaces eventually infects everybody with emotional refreshment at some level. Every person's threshold of emotional refreshment is an individualized elaboration of the experience of the night's liminal moment.

Matsinhe quotes Turner as saying spaces outside normalized social structure and morality are liminal. He uses Bakhtin's theories such as the carnival as a way to capture the images and moods of liminal spaces. The relatively free atmosphere expressed in unrestrained speech, mocking of authorities, and grotesque presentation of bodies. He maintains that this grotesque logic is encountered in the discussion of the dance floor figuration because, like other liminal figurations, the dance floor figuration has structural characteristics of carnival.

Matsinhe also draws on a study by Stanley and Niaah (2004) that explored dancehalls in Kingston, Jamaica as an expression of 'collective memory'. This study views the dancehalls features of collective memory as the dancehall's coordinates of spatiality, temporality, and embodiment.

The study describes the dancehall's dancing bodies as the underworld citizens. The dancehall's sociocultural space as the ghetto, which includes its real life experiences of overcrowding, unemployment, violence and desperation. The dancehall's temporality consists of nomadic life, that is, the establishment, since the days of slavery. This study maintains that these dynamics of spatiality, temporality, and embodiment of the dancehall are all rooted in Jamaica's history of slavery.

This view ties in with the previously discussed neo-tribalism theory that dancing and clubbing are more than mere escapism and that such activity can encompass a political expression. The need to survive in a world where the establishment has, to some extent, failed particular groups of people is one explanation for the popularity of clubbing.

Clubbing, being a subculture is a form of expression that provides participants with a feeling of belonging and provides them with an identity. It is a means to an end for the youth who use it as a measure of social status.

Matsinhe, D.M. [ref to be finished]

Riley, S. Griffin, C. Morey, Y. 2010. The Case for 'Everyday Politics': Evaluating Neo-tribal Theory as a Way to Understand Alternative Forms of Political Participation, Using Electronic Dance Music Culture as an Example. Sage publications on behalf of the British Sociological Association. Vol 44(2): 345-363. Available from:

Accessed: 5th April 2013

Gelder K. Thornton, S. 1997. The subcultures reader. Routledge. London. P51 - 52

Thornton, S. 1995. Club Cultures. Music, media and subcultural capital. Polity Press. Great Britain. Pgs. 1 - 19

Other articles

The History and Context of Club Culture Essay example - Papers

The History and Context of Club Culture Essay example

The History and Context of Club Culture

"History is hard to know because of all the hired bullshit, but

even without being sure of history it seems entirely reasonable

that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes

to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really

understands at the time, and which never explain, in retrospect,

what really happened"

(Hunter.S.Thompson, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas")

The late 1980's saw the emergence of a hugely significant social
phenomenon. Rave culture (or club culture as it is now most commonly
referred to), is of massive appeal to many young people and statistics
by Mintel show that 15.7 million people in Britain go clubbing each
weekend (Mintel:1996). Clubbing has become a major cultural industry
and cities such as Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester to name but a few,
all have well developed clubbing industries making a substantial
contribution to the local cities economy. Many cities have actively
pursued inner city regeneration programmes partially based on the
nighttime economy and attraction of clubbers (Malbon 1999:6).

Club culture has become a notable area of study for two main reasons.
Firstly because of the ever increasing scale of its appeal in modern
society, and secondly because of the largely negative social reaction
it has received from the media, police and the government. This led to
a major moral panic surrounding rave culture, with key debates
centring on the culture's relationship with the illegal drug ecstasy.
The fear was that this culture would encompass all youth; it therefore
constituted a threat to both the social and moral.

. middle of paper.

. ut even being old enough to attend the
club. Magazines such as 'Mixmag', 'Musik' and 'Ministry' have all
referred to these clubs as 'brand names'. In addition to this the
Island of Ibiza has been described as "the clubbing Mecca" (Mixmag
June 2002), attracting thousands of young British clubbers each year
with one aim - to club! Despite the massive possibilities this pastime
holds for study "the latest and by a long way probably the largest and
most influential of recent young people's cultures or styles in
Britain can be found in club cultures" (Malbon 1999:16), the
sociological literature on the topic is in fact quite sparse, and what
is available tends to be quite diverse and with distinct

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Clubbing Culture

Clubbing Culture

Nowadays, night clubs are very famous in all over the world especially among teenagers. There is a night club in every part of the country. Today, teenagers prefer to hang out in a pub or a night club rather than just go to the cinema and chill out in a cafй with their friends. Recently, partying at a club is regarded as a hobby for the rich. For example, the Hollywood famous jet set people; Paris Hilton and Nichole Ritchie. They go to the club almost every night. Clubbing also make teenagers become lazy and often wake up late. It also causes damage in their body. Usually, people who go to the club did not only dance instead they usually drink alcohols and sometimes they take drugs to keep them fit throughout the night and so their able to dance all night long. Doping is a kind of drugs which is very popular among clubbers. Some people said that doping is like multivitamins that will keep you on your feet throughout the night. I think clubbing culture is an interesting topic for me to talk about and discuss as part of my culture project.

Firstly, I would like to talk about the history of clubbing. A night club is an entertainment venue which does its primary business after dark. A night club is always associated with a dance floor, disco lamp, and a bar. The difference between a night club and a pub is that a pub has got limited space for people to dance on and no DJs. In 1955, Pub is known as the place for cowboys to hang out and drink a beer. Pub is quite famous among cowboys. In early 1970's, people started to get to know about discotheque. However nowadays people refer to it as a nightclub. Basically, a night club enables its customers to do a floor show, to dance and to socialize with other clubbers. The music which is also mixed by the DJ's ranges from jazz, country, pop, and blues all the way to electronic music such as techno and trance, houses, bass and drum. Gathering in night clubs usually involves music by a DJ, dancing and the most important thing is of course, alcohol.

Nowadays, a modern night club is a common place for people who want to get drugs especially ecstasy. Clubs are often advertised by passing out of flyers on the streets, a cafй, record shops, and at other clubs or events. They are often eye catching and highly decorative. A modern night clubs usually features lighting, smoke machines, colorful flashing lights and moving lights beams. One of the most common item found at a night club is a disco ball. A disco ball is a rotating lamp ball which is covered with a small flat mirror and alight beam directed on it. The size is of a disco ball is almost as big as a football size. The reflection of the moving light spot is directed on the people and on the dance floor. Some night clubs usually throw a foam parties once or twice a month. Foam party is where the dance floor is being filled with soap suds.

From time to time there are various night clubs located in all over the world. For example, USA has got a non-smoking, alcohol night clubs as well as the gay night clubs. There are also restaurants or supper clubs that provide live music and entertainment that are similar to that of the night clubs. Although, the difference is that the food is the main attraction at these establishments. Right now, I would like to discuss about clubbing culture in some country.

Teenagers in Argentina usually hang out with their friends on Saturday night. The night clubs usually opens at 2am and finish at about 6am or latest at 7am. During summer, the clubs usually finish at 8am. In Buenos Aires, the ticket for clubbing cost about 50 peso. The DJ's usually plays the country's traditional music. It is their culture to dance in the night clubs with their traditional songs. In Argentina, the beer and alcohol is very cheap. The weirdest thing is that beers are cheaper than any soft drinks! About 70% teenagers in Argentina always go to the night club every weekend. It is quite easy for the teenagers in Argentina to socialize with other people when they are in a night club. For example, it is easy to get a girl for a boy who opens a bottle of alcohol in a night club. That is how they communicate with each other especially with a people of the opposite gender. There is an unusual culture in Argentina, if a boy can make a girl get drunk in the night club then makes the girl dance on the floor with him more than 5 minutes, he will own the girl for the night. It is quite normal in Argentina for teenagers to make out with her boyfriend or even strangers.

According to a website, a survey of club-goers

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