Subcultures or Neo-Tribes | Sociology
In former blogposts I wrote about the subjects and theory of identity and subcultures. I would like to point out a different vision of Bennet about ‘subcultures’ and as he calls this ‘neo-tribes’.
The term ‘subculture’ continues to be widely used in sociological studies, despite the criticism of subcultural theory. Bennet (1999) argues in his article that the concept of ‘subculture’ is unworkable as an objective analytical tool in sociological work on youth, music and style. According to Bennet musical taste and stylistic preferences of youth are in fact examples of late modern lifestyles, rather than being tied to issues of social class (as subculture maintains). He argues that the musical and stylistic sensibilities exhibited by young people are clear examples of a form of late modern ‘sociality’ rather than a fixed subcultural group. Bennet draws upon the concept of ‘neo-tribes’, which means that coherent subcultures can be better understood as a series of temporal gatherings characterized by fluid boundaries and floating memberships. A tribe refers more to a certain ambiance, a state of mind, and is preferably to be expressed through lifestyles that favour appearance and form. ‘Lifestyle’ is according to Bennet ‘a freely chosen game’ and should not be confused with ‘a way of life’. Individuals choose certain commodities and patterns of consumption and in articulating these cultural resources as modes of personal expression.
The most important point Bennet wants to make is that identities are ‘fluid’ rather than ‘fixed’, what the traditional subcultural theories suppose. He gives the example of youth and musical taste. According to Bennet music generates a range of moods and experiences which individuals are able to move freely between. By choosing certain musical styles and visual images, the forms of association and social gatherings in which young people become involved are not rigidly bound into a ‘subcultural’ community but rather assume a more fluid, neo-tribe character (Bennet, 1999).
After reading theories about subcultures and this article about ‘neo-tribes’ I wonder; if you look upon peoples fashion styles and consumption behavior these days, which theory do you think is more visible? Do people form subcultures, for example the vintage subculture you see at the moment, or are people taking part in groups with different styles and are the boundaries more fluid?