by Andreas Albanis,
Sociologist - Dr. Criminology
(The following article was presented by the author at a symposium on "Criminology: Teaching and Research in Greece" held at Messolonghi, Greece on 28th and 29th May 2009).
The following article focuses on the theoretical and experiential environment of research, describing the journey without dwelling on the destination itself. Should the ensuing discussion require it, I will elaborate the issue of documentation more deeply.
I will begin with an explanation of the research subject, which began in November 2002. This is not a criminological study of Greek rock music subculture, but an exploration of the relationship between deviance and crime, using subculture as an example. Thus, we are examining the ambiguity between deviance and crime via a particular subculture, not within it. The result therefore is not Criminology of rock, but rather - as inappropriate as it may sound - a rock Criminology.
The neoclassical concept of continuity between deviance and crime forms a basic principle for prevention policies. By prevention we mean the intervention into factors that are considered to contribute to any given crime. We tend to focus on social fields that are conducive to criminality, with the result that instead of investigating the tenuous link between deviance and crime, these relationships are already taken for granted under a set of established pre-conceptions.
A Cultural Criminology may serve as a counterweight to this condition. According to Afroditi Koukoutsaki, assistant professor at the Panteion University (2005), “a basic area of study in cultural criminology is crime as a sub-cultural activity, and it’s mirror image, sub-cultural activity as a crime. In other words the common ground between culture and criminal practices or otherwise the criminalization of collective behavior and the resulting repressive policies and “moral campaigns” that are activated in response to these activities [...]. Our interest shifts from the "reality" of sub-cultural activity and its contributing factors, to examine instead the "situational definitions" that are formed both within the subcultures themselves, and in conventional society.” In simple words, the aim of Cultural Criminology research is to establish a method for defining legal, deviant and criminal behavior within specific cultural contexts. It is understood that the practice of Cultural Criminology appears to act in opposition to (conventional) Criminology’s goal of objectivity in the description and interpretation of crime in order to develop suitable policy tools. In this search, Cultural Criminology presents profound challenges, and when applied systematically and regularly, may be interpreted as depriving conventional Criminology of the ability to formulate a robust conceptual toolkit. As an example, should I invite you to my house tomorrow at noon for lunch, instead of a simple “yes” or “no” you may ask: “What do you mean by ‘lunch?”, “will I like the food?”, “Have you considered that, since I don’t eat dinner, I require larger servings than the others”, etc. Yes, chaos! In the case of a simple dinner invitation may politely accept a less-than ideal set of parameters, without the luxury of choice in the details. However, this cannot be the case for crime policy, since we are in a social situation where terms such as “social injustice”, “fear of crime”, “increase in violence and crime” are freely used to mandate increasing social control. My proposal is to “let the chaos begin”, a closing phrase in the manifesto of Ferrell, Hayward, Morrison and Presdee (2004) for Cultural Criminology. This should not be perceived as an obstacle to the goals of Criminology but as a foil to those forces that would usurp the results of the criminological body of knowledge to promote their self-interests within the criminal justice system.
This brief introduction was necessary before describing my chosen research approach and subject matter. When I began in 2002 to investigate the described phenomenon in the Greek rock-music scene, I discovered two distinct relationships as fact; the first between rock music and deviant behavior, and the second between deviance and crime. Having been a member of various rock bands since 1992, the dimensions of the first relationship were familiar to me. In short, it serves as a primary component of rock music’s cultural identity, and reinforced by its advocates. I was not convinced however of the causal relationship with criminal activity, as commonly presented in contemporary literature and by the Media. These doubts were not shared by my parents, teachers, fellow students, employers, even fellow members of the music scene. This perceived rock-deviance-crime relationship appeared to have permeated all my social interactions. For me, and others like me, this relationship is unfairly presented in everyday life as a social and cultural certainly, in particular the perceived continuity between deviance and crime. How much of a challenge to these certainties might be posed by an alternative analysis of this relationship and how might this different perception help to re-shape social norms in response to rock-deviance-crime? Thus, my research goal for the next five years was to document transitions from rock-deviance to conformance with the dominant social norms. This was achieved using a rigorous application Sociology, Social Anthropology and Criminological tools and methodology in an attempt to overthrow conventional wisdom.
The social researcher’s first obstacle is to overcome the inherent ambiguity of
conceptual terminology. My research required a specific definition of the terms: rock music, deviation, crime and compliance, followed by social control, subculture, the dominant culture, etc.
Rock music is perhaps the most popular genre of the last 50 years. Nonetheless, it is impossible to define not only from a sociological perspective, but even musically. As Robert Pattison (1994) said, “it does not take much to see that in any seemingly objective observation of rock can be countered with a totally opposite conclusion. Rock music is a vehicle for capitalism. Rock music is a rebellion against capitalism. Rock is political and apolitical. Rock incites and neutralizes aggression.” We find similar discrepancies underlying core concepts of Criminology. Sometimes deviance appears as a divergence from an ideal social median, and other times it is seen as a triumph of personality and therefore a mark of successful character; On one hand, crime may be seen as a tool of the powerful and on the other, the heroic culmination of moral action by revolutionary groups; Sometimes instruments of social control are seen as inhumane and oppressive, and other times a cornerstone of democratic consensus; There are times when subcultures may conflict with the principles of the dominant culture whilst in others it draws its very existence from them. The beauty of everyday life is that these different perceptions co-exist, and together make up the patchwork of different realities experienced by social groups. The sum total is situational definitions that represent different “realities” with tangible effects on individual and social experience.
Before constructing a theoretical framework for the research, I developed a system of definitions that would allow for this inherent complexity, in order to avoid choosing between opposing theoretical arguments, which according to Niklas Luhmann (1995) reduce the complexity of the everyday world.
I resorted to using of social representation, i.e. the perception held by someone (individual, group, institution) about something (a person, thing, event, idea, theory, etc.). That is, we have subject and object, as well as cognitive, emotional, and behavioral data. Thus the discrepancies observed in both the everyday world and in the scientific discourse, may be attributed to the use of different social representations. An example in of this is the fundamental theoretical argument put forward by Howard Becker in his Outsiders (2000 Greek trans.), whereby norms may separate the conventional from the marginalized, but the marginalized parties may claim that those norms belong to parties who are marginalized with respect to themselves. Becker describes two social representations of the same object (norm), from two different social subjects. The point where these two social representations conflict generates and reaffirms the definition of deviance. Indeed, the function of conflict was so important to him that he eventually asks a fundamental question: “Whose side are we on?”
In attempting to answer the question of “who is who”, I set aside the notion of conflict and paid greater attention to the idea of coexistence, following the advice of Giddens, “Do not look for functions, look for contradictions” (Craib 1998). My relative down-playing of conflict does not mean that these opposing social forces are absent from everyday life, nor am I advocating consensus. Opposition exists, but within a unified confrontational dynamic, prompting us to reclassify social conflict as social tension. I shall illustrate this with an example. Suppose we have a shoelace tied in a bow. To tighten this bow requires one to exert opposing forces on both ends of the string. Focusing our attention on the ends of the string leads us to observe two opposing forces in balance. We ignore, however, that the shoelace is a unified piece through which a single force acts. The forces stretching the string from can be observed anywhere along its length, and not only at the points of friction.
At this point, I should point out that public and criminological interest (and by extension criminal investigations) tend to focus only on the points of friction. This often leads to hasty and superficial conclusions in instances where the overt signs of friction demand an immediate response - both scientific and political. The issue is that this deals superficially with certain visible symptoms of social tension, whilst the other consequences of social tension are accepted as normal (or even desirable), and the underlying causes barely acknowledged. This observation leads me to articulate a proposal for basic criminological research, namely that it does not need to draw data selectively from established criminological groups (detainees, convicts, vulnerable social groups, members of the penal system, etc.) but from the entire breadth of society. I believe that since questions of law, crime, and responses to it, affect all our lives, a balanced enquiry should consult both the bank robber and the chartered accountant.
Under this approach, rock music is not only the subject of conflicting social representations, but also subject to social representation. That is to say, as a lifestyle and projection of self it can be used to decode the randomness of the social world under a system of classification, a mediating and cognitive framework of everyday social challenges. As such, rock music may include social contradictions without disqualifying it from the analytic process. A similarity exists in definitions of social control, which may take on both a preventative and permissive character. That is the nature of the technique for selecting options within interacting situations. In this sense, deviance and crime can not be defined in the absence of social control, but as both outcomes and drivers of it. According to Bourdieu (1999), deviance and crime can be defined as representatives of social control.
It follows that rock music subculture cannot be characterized as an undisciplined framework in conflict with the disciplines of the dominant culture. Using our theoretical framework presented earlier, we may see that rock music subculture in fact uses the same vocabulary as the dominant culture, even when saying something different. It uses these same disciplines and relies on social control for its coherence. It is an exemplary disciplinary system, implementing a rigorous and complex system of rewards and sanctions. In the words of Foucault (2004), rock music subculture is a "penal system of rules”. Of course, this hypothetical - and subsequently tested – argument is not sufficient to establish the transition from rock music deviance to conformance with the dominant social norms. A gang-member who participates in criminal activity cannot be considered to be acting in compliance with the dominant social norms. The question in the field of rock music subculture and its self-perceived divergent cultural identity has nothing to do with compliance with the law, but compliance to the dominant social system of rewards and sanctions. In Max Weber’s words “the event of orientation of action in any class relates to its power and not its compliance. (Luhmann 1995, p. 123). Or as Baudrillard later put it (2005) it is by practicing the rules of the game that ensures the conformity of individuals and groups, and not the obedience to the rules. Therefore, according to the present research the Greek rock music subculture of the 1990’s is a divergent subculture that if anything, leads its members towards compliance with dominant social rules, more effectively perhaps than even the toughest legislator could achieve.
BAUDRILLARD Jean; “The Consumer Society”; trans. Vasilis Tomanas; Νisides, Thessaloniki; 2005.
BECKER Howard; “Outsiders, Studies in the Sociology of Deviance”; trans. Athina Koutzoglou & Vasileos Bourliaskos; Legal Library, Athens; 2000.
BOURDIEU Pierre; “Language and Symbolic Power”; trans. Kiki Kapsabeli, intro. Nikos Panagiotopoulos-Berlin Institute – A. Kardamitsa, Athens; 1999.
CRAIB Ian; Structuration Theory, in: Petmezidou Maria (ed.), Contemporary Sociological Theory, vol. 2; Cretan University Press, Heraklion; 1998; pp. 225-268
FERRELL Jeff, HAYWARD Keith, MORISSON Wayne, PRESDEE Mike (eds), Cultural Criminology Unleash , Glasshouse Press, London-Sydney-Oregon, 2004.
FOUCAULT Michel, “Surveiller et punir”; trans. Katy Hatzidimou – Julliette Rallis, Rappas Publications; 2004
LUHMANN Niklas; Stucture and Deviant Behavior; trans. Efi Lambropoulou in: Luhmann Niklas, Social Systems Theory, Sakkoulas Publications, Athens-Komotini; 1995, pp. 109-134.
PATTISON Robert; “Rock Music in the Mirror of Romanticism”; trans. Stephanos Rozanis; Prisma Publications; Athens; 1992.
Koukoutsaki Afroditi; “Social Reconstructions of Crime and Criminlogy – Introduction to Cultural Criminology (course notes); Panteion University, Athens; 2005