This book argues that punk and post-punk, whatever their respective internal stylistic heterogeneity, enjoyed 'sociological reality' in Samuel Gilmore's and Howard Becker's sense. It elaborates the concept of 'music worlds', contrasting it with alternatives from the sociological literature. In particular it contrasts it with the concepts 'subculture', 'scene' and 'field'. The book then outlines a number of concepts which allow us to explore the localised process in which punk took shape in a sociologically rigorous manner. In particular it discusses the concepts of 'critical mass' and 'social networks'. The book also applies these concepts to the London punk world of 1976. It considers how talk about punk migrated from face-to-face networks to mass media networks and the effects of that shift. Continuing the discussion of punk's diffusion and growth, the book considers how punk worlds took shape in Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield. In addition, however, the book offers a more technical analysis of the network structures of the post-punk worlds of the three cities. Furthermore, extending this analysis, and combining qualitative and quantitative forms of analysis, the book considers how activities in different local post-punk worlds were themselves linked in a network, constituting a national post-punk world.
In the previous chapter I suggested that punk and post-punk are best
conceived, for sociological purposes, as ‘music worlds’, a concept
I adapt from HowardBecker’s notion of ‘art worlds’ (1951, 1963,
1974, 1976, 1982, 1995, 2004, 2006a, 2006b; Faulkner and Becker
2009; see also Bottero and Crossley 2011; Finnegan 1989; Lopes 2002;
Martin 1995, 2005, 2006a, 2006b). In this chapter I elaborate upon this
concept. Before I do, however, I briefly review three alternative conceptions, explaining why I have chosen ‘music worlds’ over them. As much
In this book, drawing upon HowardBecker’s (1982) concept of ‘art
worlds’, I have conceptualised punk and post-punk as ‘music worlds’
existing both on the local, city level and also spanning towns and cities,
on a national level. Concentrating upon the 1975–80 period I have tried
1 The emergence of the first UK punk world, in London.
2 The process of diffusion which carried punk to other towns and
cities, leading to the emergence of punk worlds in those cities too.
3 The transformation of punk, in several of these worlds, into
The portrayal of tattoos in Sarah Hall’s The electric Michelangelo
and Alan Kent’s Voodoo pilchard
. This question can fruitfully be considered through recourse to HowardBecker’s sociological concept of the ‘art world’.
Becker defines an ‘art world’ as the sum total of social relationships and productive forces without whose mutual and carefully orchestrated collaboration no individual work of art could be created or distributed to an audience (Becker 2008 : 35). The concept of the art world helps to overhaul the longstanding, romantic notion that works of art are the unique products of the individual aesthetic geniuses who produce them
in contemporary sociology. In particular, it is a perspective which is
developed in HowardBecker’s Art Worlds (1982), a work which, as
will become evident, I believe to be an enormously fruitful source
for the sociology of cultural production.
Sociologists who have pursued these matters in recent years have
come to converge on an approach that is not primarily concerned
with the deciphering of texts, or with the ‘style’, or indeed with
deciding the ‘quality’, of the music in question. Rather, their main
interest is in what people do with
of imposture as merely deviant activity or a pathological lie (pseudologia
phantastica). The labelling theory as originally proposed by HowardBecker
encourages us to focus on the contexts in which the label ‘impostor’ and its
related variants were applied and offers some useful thoughts to examine the
relationship between ‘impostor’ and community and the process of social
definition. Although the theory is not primarily understood here in a
Foucaultian sense that authorities create deviant behaviour, there is clearly a
difference between being labelled an
Investigation (Dublin: Government
Stationery Office, 1993).
North Western Health Board Review Group, West of Ireland Farmer Case: Report of the
Review Group (Dublin: Government Stationery Office, 1998).
These questions are based on questions that were offered first in Charles Ragin and HowardBecker, What Is a Case? Exploring the Foundations of Social Inquiry (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1992), p. 231.
For fuller elaboration of issues involved here see Keenan, Child Sexual Abuse.
Hannah Arendt, The Portable Hannah Arendt (New York: Penguin Classics, 2000).
interacting with these groups, squatters tend to feel uncomfortable
because they are excessively authentic. As a result, squatters feel
challenged in their oppositional identities by becoming aware of their
privileges. This sense of restriction and paralysis results in moments
of rupture. I will further explain this dynamic in the last part of the
To help analyze how squatters negotiate authenticity, I
will use the work of three scholars, Pierre Bourdieu, Sarah Thornton,
and HowardBecker. According to
Antonio Candido de Mello e Souza, ‘Dialectic of
Malandroism’, in On Literature and Society (tr. HowardBecker),
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995) and DaMatta, Carnivals,
Rogues, and Heroes.
Ibid., p. 218.
Lívia Neves de H. Barbosa, ‘The Brazilian
‘sensitizing concepts’ as ‘it gives the user a general sense of reference and
guidance in approaching empirical instances’. As I understand it, sensitising
concepts that are used as a starting point in one research context can then
be developed into more or less ‘definitive concepts’ or theories about similar
research objects. Blumer (1954: 7: emphasis added) defined ‘definitive concepts’
as ‘refer[ring] precisely to what is common to a class of objects’. One of
Blumer’s students, the sociologist HowardBecker, further developed the
idea that theorising essentially depends