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Violences juvéniles sous expertise(s) / Expertise and Juvenile Violence

 | 
Aurore François
, 
Veerle Massin
, 
David Niget

Redefining the delinquent

Experts and Youth Gangs in the British and American Contexts

Tiffany Bergin

Texte intégral

  • 1 Kevin Johnson, “FBI: Burgeoning Gangs Behind Up to 80 % of US Crime”, in USA Today, 29 January 200 (...)
  • 2 Sean O’neill, “2,800 Crime Gangs Ravage UK Streets”, in The Times, 25 April 2009, available from: (...)
  • 3 Finn-Aage Esbensen, L. Thomas Winfree, Ni He, Terrance J. Taylor, “Youth Gangs and Definitional Is (...)
  • 4 Richard A. Ball, G. David Curry, “The Logic of Definition in Criminology: Purposes and Methods for (...)

1In January 2009 an ominous-sounding article appeared in the popular American newspaper USA Today1. The article proclaimed that, according to government research, “an estimated 1 million” people in the United States were involved in “criminal gangs” and that gangs were responsible “for up to 80 % of crimes” committed in the US. An article published several months later in the British newspaper The Times was given the headline “2,800 crime gangs ravage UK streets” and detailed the findings of a government report about the illegal activities of criminal gangs in the United Kingdom2. These two articles are just two of the many examples of the significant media attention which gangs and gang-related crimes have traditionally received in the US and the UK. Interestingly, however, although gangs generate such extreme media interest, the definition of what actually constitutes a criminal “gang” remains the subject of vigorous debate3. Experts in fields such as sociology, criminology, public policy, psychology, social work, urban studies and other disciplines have long attempted to define what “gangs” are – and, in particular, define what “youth gangs” or “street gangs” are – but there remains little consensus on this issue4.

  • 5 See, for example: L. Thomas Winfree, Kathy Fuller, Teresa VIGIL, G. Larry Mays, “The Definition an (...)
  • 6 Malcolm W. Klein, “The New Street Gang…Or Is It?”, in Contemporary Sociology, 21 (1), p. 80. This (...)

2Beginning with the landmark 1920s and 1930s research of Chicago School sociologists like Frederic Thrasher and continuing over the course of the entire 20th century, experts within the academy have persistently endeavored to redefine the term “gang”. Indeed, the struggle to establish a consistent and coherent definition for this term has given rise to much interesting academic discussion5. This essay traces the changing definitions of gangs by examining the gang-related research of several key academic experts in the United States and the United Kingdom who often worked with government officials or law enforcement officers to influence the fate of juveniles in the criminal justice system. The chapter aims to understand how these changing definitions of the word “gang” reflected the shifting power dynamics and changing social conditions within British and American societies. As the 20th century progressed, these definitions increasingly criminalized and distanced gang members from “mainstream” society, particularly in the United States, although some academic experts in both countries reacted against these pathologizing definitions in the latter decades of the century. Ultimately, these changing definitions of gangs can tell us a great deal about the changing nature of gangs. The changing power dynamics in these societies and the changing perspectives of gang researchers. Indeed, as the gang expert Malcolm W. Klein has written: “Descriptions of American street gangs vary markedly from one generation to another, but it is not clear whether the differences are a function more of the gangs or of their research observers”6.

  • 7 Peter Ives, Language & Hegemony in Gramsci, London, Pluto Press, 2004.

3In order to critically assess these changing definitions of gangs, the essay draws upon the Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci’s ideas about the role of intellectuals in society, hegemony in the social system, and historicism in the interpretation of different theories. Gramsci was very interested in language so it is fitting that his work is used in this chapter to analyze the language employed by different academic experts7. It is important to examine how such definitions changed because these changes had significant consequences for disempowered youths in American and British societies.

1. Looking Through the Theoretical Lens of Antonio Gramsci

1.1. Who is an Expert?

4Throughout the 20th century many different types of experts exerted authority over, and attempted to influence, juvenile justice. This chapter specifically focuses on the activities of academic experts – defined as individuals who, because of academic research and university qualifications, are believed to possess knowledge about a subject. The subject of interest in this chapter is youth gangs, so the academic experts that are primarily considered here are sociologists, criminologists, psychologists, professors of social work, and other intellectuals who focus on criminal justice issues and juveniles.

  • 8 Some of the analysis in this section is influenced by the following work: Attilio Monasta, “Antoni (...)
  • 9 Antonio Gramsci, “The Intellectuals”, in Quintin Hoare, Geoffrey Nowell Smith (ed.), Selections fr (...)
  • 10 Gramsci, “The Intellectuals…”, p. 5.

5The work of the Italian philosopher and social thinker Antonio Gramsci, which provides the overall theoretical framework for this essay, offers a critical perspective which can be used to analyze the role of academic experts in the diagnosis of juvenile violence8. Gramsci, who was not a typical academic, was still very interested in critically evaluating the activities of individuals he termed “organic intellectuals”9. Organic intellectuals, in Gramsci’s thought, are scholarly experts whose authority within society is not rooted in the traditional historical sources of knowledge and power such as religion or family connections, but instead arises organically from the capitalist system itself. According to Gramsci, organic intellectuals are individuals who grow up in the upper-class, the middle-class, or the working-class in a capitalist system and then go on to reinforce their own very specific class interests through their work (although it is possible, if rare, for an intellectual to arise out of one class and then go on to represent the interests of a different class). Thus, as Gramsci theorized, each economic class “creates together with itself, organically, one or more strata of intellectuals which give it homogeneity and an awareness of its own function not only in the economic but also in the social and political fields10”. In other words, intellectuals or academic experts actually help formulate and solidify the specific identities of various classes within a capitalist society. This conception of intellectuals as physical representatives of class-based identities, ideas and values – with intellectual perspectives which promote the interests of specific economic classes – is important to consider when interrogating the views of academic experts about gangs in the United States and the United Kingdom, countries which both maintain capitalist economic and neoliberal political systems.

  • 11 Gramsci, “The Intellectuals…”.
  • 12 Some of the discussion of these issues in this paragraph is influenced by the following works: Car (...)

6A second major theme which emanates from Gramsci’s theoretical work about the role of intellectuals is their role as hands-on participants in the rudimentary day-today workings of society11. Gramsci recognized that in capitalist societies there are strong demands on organic intellectuals to engage in practical work beyond the confines of university lecture halls12. Such practical work often involves improving the ways thing work in society and making the governmental bureaucracy more efficient or effective. These efforts, according to Gramsci, strengthen the government, and, either directly or indirectly, reinforce the dominant political or economic structure in society. Given these motivations, it is not surprising that criminologists, sociologists, psychologists, and other intellectuals interested in criminal justice in capitalist countries often tried to interact with criminal justice policymakers and practitioners and influence the criminal justice system during the 20th century. In many cases such academics in the US and the UK became involved in defining, diagnosing, and influencing the conduct of youth gangs. Gramsci’s work helps place into context the decisions of such academic experts to work with government institutions or with law enforcement and it is critical to keep Gramsci’s perspective in mind when assessing the intellectual efforts of academic experts about gangs.

1.2. Hegemony, Middle-Class Values, and Historicism in the British and American Contexts

  • 13 Gramsci, “The Intellectuals…”. For an interesting interpretation of the concept of hegemony by ano (...)

7In addition to the role of academic experts in society, a second major concept from Gramsci’s thought, hegemony, also adds insight to the themes discussed in this chapter13. Gramsci theorized that, in capitalist states, the middle and upper classes assert their authority not only through detectable, direct means of control, such as the threat of arrest by a state-sponsored police force, but also through less visible means of control such as values, ideas, and culture. These dominant classes do not merely force their authority upon the working class, according to Gramsci’s perspective, but they also attempt to actively gain the consent of the working class as well. Through cultural hegemony the powerful interests in society and the owners of capital are able to non-violently enforce their dominance within capitalist countries or cultures. Through hegemony, the values of these powerful interests – the values which uphold the capitalist system and maintain elite control – become the values which are eventually seen as “normal” and “proper” and desirable. Thus middle class “standards” become the standards against which the conduct of everyone in society is judged. Gramsci’s conception of hegemony is one of the most important ideas in social and cultural studies in the past 100 years. It is important to consider Gramsci’s hegemony framework when analyzing the changing definition of gangs in the 20th century because, as the next few sections of this paper demonstrate, gangs have often been defined as groups whose values are in opposition to mainstream, middle-class values.

  • 14 For a discussion of historicism and Gramsci’s work see: Adam David MORTON, “Historicizing Gramsci: (...)

8A fourth aspect of Gramsci’s theoretical orientation that needs to be explored is his historicism14. Gramsci argued that all ideas are historically-dependent and products of the time in which they were thought up. As individuals, we are all influenced by the historical period and the society in which we live; intellectuals are equally affected by these forces, so it is essential to consider the time periodization and the contemporary historical climate from which ideas originated when evaluating the ideas and perspectives that intellectuals put forward. Although the most extreme form of this historicist orientation could be criticized for promoting an unhelpful perspective in which every idea is seen as a product of its time and no idea is considered objectively “true”, this chapter honors the sentiment behind Gramsci’s perspective by considering historical time and place as paramount to the analysis of gang definitions.

  • 15 Peter Ives, Gramsci’s Politics of Language, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2004.
  • 16 Marcia Landy, Film, Politics, and Gramsci, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1994, p. 15 (...)
  • 17 IVES, Gramsci’s Politics of Language…, p. 12.
  • 18 Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks…, p. 38.

9The last key aspect of Gramsci’s thought which is central to this essay and provides an overarching framework for analyzing the changing definitions of gangs is Gramsci’s emphasis on language. Surprisingly, scholars have paid relatively little attention to Gramsci’s ideas about language, despite their importance to his overall thought15. Indeed, Gramsci’s ideas about language are so important because, as Marcia Landy explains, “For Gramsci, language was synonymous with culture and politics”16. Language, in Gramsci’s theoretical orientation, plays a key role in society and is one of the means through which the powerful codify and enforce a particular cultural identity. In contrast to the views of some contemporary linguists, Gramsci saw language not as a universal, biologically-driven characteristic but as a socially-defined construct unique to a particular historical situation17. The ways in which we use and interpret language thus reflect the values and social structures present in our societies. To illustrate this point, Gramsci offers the example of Latin in the contemporary world. In Ancient Rome people learned Latin in order to communicate; today, however, it is taught in schools not to foster communication but “to accustom children to studying in a specific manner” and “to accustom [children] to reason, to think abstractly”18. In other words this language has acquired a new, historically-specific social purpose and its diffusion helps reinforce certain ideals which are valued in the contemporary world. Similarly, the language which experts used to redefine gangs in the 20th century helped reinforce certain ideals which were valued in that era.

10The next few sections of this essay evaluate the work and ideas of several key academic experts who were involved in gang-related research in the US or the UK during the 20th century. Following Gramsci, all of these ideas are considered with respect to their historical context; the time periods and societies in which these academic experts worked are clearly described. Thus, for the most part, the contributions of academic experts to discussion of gangs and juvenile delinquency are examined in chronological order to facilitate such history-centered analysis. All of the significant aspects of the Gramscian framework discussed here are employed in the future sections of this chapter to critically evaluate the history of youth gang research – and attempts to define and diagnose youth gangs – in the US and the UK over the past 100 years or so.

2. Key Academic Experts in the Formative History of Gang Research

2.1. The Origins of Gang Definitions: Frederic Thrasher and the Chicago School Approach

  • 19 Andrew Davies, “Street Gangs, Crime and Policing in Glasgow During the 1930s: The Case of the Beeh (...)
  • 20 For a discussion of the Chicago School’s activities and the historical environment in which these (...)

11Groups of individuals who work together to commit criminal activities have existed in almost every country around the world throughout much of human history. Cartels, mafia groups and other variously-organized criminal associations have been labeled “gangs” and received significant societal attention for centuries. It was only in the 20th century, however, that juvenile “gangs” – sometimes referred to as “youth gangs” or “street gangs”19 – began to pique the interest of academics and other observers on a massive scale. One of the pioneers in this field was Frederic M. Thrasher, a sociologist affiliated with the influential Chicago School, a group of social science researchers based in that American city in the 1920s and 1930s. Like his colleagues in the Chicago School, Thrasher focused on the social and structural dynamics which give rise to juvenile delinquency and violence; thus he and other Chicago School researchers moved away from the biological and other deterministic theories which had seduced previous generations of social science researchers20. Chicago School researchers were able to make this move in part because of their unique location in both space and history. The School emerged at a time when Chicago was rapidly transforming because of the immigration and industrialization that had taken place over the past several decades. Scholars had a wealth of data and experiences that they could draw from to chart macro-level social change. Thrasher’s work thus must be seen in context as part of this movement which occurred at a very particular moment in US history.

  • 21 Greg Dimitriadis, “The Situation Complex: Revisiting Frederic Thrasher’s The Gang: A Study of 1,31 (...)
  • 22 The information contained in this and the following paragraph is the author’s interpretation of th (...)

12In 1927, Thrasher published The Gang: A Study of 1,313 Gangs in Chicago, one of the first books to explore the dynamics of juvenile gangs in great detail21. Thrasher’s work highlights the boisterous, crowded and exciting nature of city life in his era22. The book describes how a lack of adult oversight and the existence of many tempting illegal opportunities drove many adolescent boys in underprivileged areas of Chicago to form gangs. At first these gangs typically engaged in relatively minor crimes, such as truancy or petty theft, but as their members entered their later teenage years, the crimes, according to Thrasher, sometimes became more serious. The absorbing, in-depth analysis of the young people involved in these “gangs” which is contained in Thrasher’s account highlights the fundamental importance of age and the life-course in fomenting gang membership. The gang members described in the book were primarily young males, particularly adolescents. For Thrasher, then, gang involvement can be seen a stage that many boys in certain disadvantaged urban neighborhoods pass through. Gang members, for the most part, are not portrayed as the deviant “Other” in Thrasher’s analysis but are instead seen as typical unruly adolescents.

13Thrasher’s account does not contain the deeply criminalized perspective about gangs that would emerge in much of the gang research put forward in later decades. The absence of such a pathologized, criminalized perspective is perhaps best illustrated by Thrasher’s interesting definition of gangs. In The Gang: A Study of 1,313 Gangs in Chicago, Thrasher defined gangs this way:

  • 23 Ibid., p. 46.

The gang is an interstitial group originally formed spontaneously, and then integrated through conflict. It is characterized by the following types of behavior: meeting face to face, milling, movement through space as a unit, conflict, and planning. The result of this collective behavior is the development of tradition, unreflective internal structure, esprit de corps, solidarity, morale, group awareness, and attachment to a local territory23.

  • 24 Esbensen, Winfree, He, Taylor, “Youth Gangs and Definitional Issues…”.
  • 25 For an interesting interpretation of the Chicago School’s perspective and work see: Jennifer Platt(...)

14Upon reading this definition one can immediately see that involvement in illegal activities and criminal behavior are not explicitly included in Thrasher’s criteria for identifying gangs. In fact, Thrasher’s definition could just as easily apply to many nonviolent social groups that are not generally considered to be gangs today. This definition is particularly striking when one considers that most contemporary definitions of gangs explicitly or implicitly refer to crime24. There is actually something appealing about the gangs that Thrasher’s definition describes. Such appeal would be difficult to find in contemporary definitions of gangs and gang activities. Adopting a Gramscian historicist perspective, it can be argued that Thrasher’s unique, de-criminalized definition of gangs is a product of the historical and societal situation in which the Chicago School existed. The Chicago School scholars emphasized the social forces which contributed to the development of different social phenomena in society, such as crime; these scholars de-emphasized the biological or moralistic explanations for which were dominant in some academic circles in the early 20th century25. This focus on social explanations – such as concrete measures of poverty and the varying distributions of urban space – as the root causes behind crime directly feeds into Thrasher’s active, non-pathologizing gang definition. If crime and other societal problems are seen as caused by complex social forces, then it follows that gang formation would also be seen as motivated by social factors. Demonizing individual gang members and stigmatizing gangs as part of the criminal “Other” would make little sense, given this perspective. Thus, by following Gramsci’s prescription of viewing experts’ ideas within as products of their unique historical and societal context, one can see that Thrasher’s gang definition likely developed out of the budding Chicago School theoretical orientation.

2.2. Albert K. Cohen and the Emergence of Explicitly Class-Shaped Gang Definitions

  • 26 The analysis in the following paragraphs is based upon the author’s reading of: Albert K. Cohen, D (...)
  • 27 Richard H. Pells, The Liberal Mind in a Conservative Age: American Intellectuals in the 1940s and (...)

15Although Thrasher’s unique perspective retained significant influence over American gang research for several decades, by the 1950s and 1960s, the dominant perspective among academic gang experts began to shift. In 1955 Albert K. Cohen, then a sociologist at Indiana University who had firsthand experience of working with delinquent youths in the criminal justice system, published the still-widely-read book Delinquent Boys: The Culture of the Gang. This work emphasizes the role of social and economic class in the development of gangs in a much more direct way than Thrasher’s much earlier research26. According to Cohen, gangs tend to consist of youths from more disadvantaged socioeconomic classes who have been excluded from the mainstream, middle-class culture that dominates society. In the US of the 1950s, a society where, to quote the historian Richard H. Pells, the “pressures of conformity” were strong, such exclusion could have a significant effect on individuals27. Excluded youths would never have the chance to develop the middle-class values necessary for success in American mainstream life. These youths’ choices to form gangs, therefore, in Cohen’s formulation, can be seen as their collective responses to their exclusion from the dominant middle-class culture. For these young people, forming a gang is a way for them to achieve some status and meaning in their lives which they cannot achieve through “conventional” channels. The choice to join a gang is a choice to gain respect and formulate an identity in a complex, discriminatory world.

  • 28 Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks...
  • 29 For a critical analysis of aspects of Cohen’s theories see: Walter C. Reckless, “A New Theory of D (...)

16Cohen’s class-based analysis is intrinsically, but not explicitly, connected to the Gramscian conception of hegemony discussed earlier in this chapter. In Gramsci’s thought, hegemony represents the informal control that the middle and upper classes exert over society through the propagation of certain cultural values28. Through hegemony these middle-class values come to be seen as the “normal”, mainstream values and the “proper” standards against which all individuals should be judged. Cohen’s framework, in which the values of gang members are situated in direct opposition to mainstream values, fits in well with this notion of hegemony. Cohen’s research is important because it illustrates some of the malign consequences of cultural hegemony in capitalist societies – namely that individuals who, because of their class background, do not express middle-class values will be alienated from society and encouraged to join gangs to cope with their exclusion29.

  • 30 Thrasher, The Gang…, p. 46.

17It is also important to note that Cohen’s assessment and definition of gangs marks a sharp break from the earlier definition of Thrasher. Thrasher argued that, for many disadvantaged and excluded youths, participation in gangs was a somewhat conventional stage in the progression to adulthood30. Thrasher’s work does not identify all gang involvement as the deeply pathologized activity that later academic experts would focus on and assess. Indeed, upon reading Thrasher’s account, a middle-class reader might be persuaded to think that, had he grown up in a disadvantaged Chicago neighborhood in the early 20th century, he might have joined one of the gangs Thrasher described. This assessment and definition of gangs stands in sharp contrast to the framework Cohen established in which gangs are categorized as direct, oppositional responses to middle-class values. In Cohen’s formulation, within gangs, all of the “mainstream” middle-class values which are predominant in society are replaced by their polar opposites; for example, responsibility is replaced with negligence, caution is replaced with recklessness and deference to authority is replaced with disrespect. Gang members then prize and reinforce these opposite values with the same amount of energy and effort that members of mainstream society employ to uphold middle-class values. A middle-class reader, therefore, would likely have a very different reaction to Cohen’s work than to Thrasher’s work. Such a reader would likely see gang members as people very different from herself who come from a very different social class and who possess very different values. This deliberate distancing of gangs away from mainstream society became more pronounced throughout the 20th century and is illustrated by the differing definitions of gangs that academic experts put forward, as the next section.

2.3. Criminalized Definitions of Gangs in 1960s and 1970s: American Research

  • 31 Marilyn D. Mcshane, Frank P. Williams III, “Walter B. Miller (1920-2004)”, in Fifty Key Thinkers i (...)
  • 32 Ibid., p. 125.

18As the decades progressed, the tone of American gang research became, for the most part, more problem-oriented and crime-focused. One of the most prolific American gang researchers during the 1960s and 1970s was Walter B. Miller, an academic expert affiliated with Harvard University who also participated in a number of key governmental projects. In line with Gramsci’s idea that intellectuals are often proactive and involved in capitalist societies, in the late 1950s and early 1960s Miller supervised a juvenile delinquency project for the National Institute of Mental Health, an organization located within the US federal government’s Department of Health, Education and Welfare31. In the 1970s Miller directed the National Youth Gang Survey, a comprehensive research project into juvenile gangs affiliated with the US Department of Justice32.

  • 33 Walter B. Miller, Violence by Youth Gangs and Youth Groups in Major American Cities. Washington, D (...)
  • 34 Walter B. Miller, “Violent Crimes in City Gangs”, in The Annals of the American Academy of Politic (...)

19Given these partnerships with government agencies, it is not surprising that much of Miller’s gang-related work during this era was very problem-oriented and practical. For example, a 1975 report he wrote under the auspices of the National Institute for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention details his efforts to systematically uncover information about gangs, as well as to overturn media stereotypes about their activities33. Almost a decade earlier, Miller published another study which examined the activities of 150 gangs in an American city and found that, contrary to public belief, gangs did not engage in violent behavior as often as media reports would suggest and only rarely perpetrated irrational violence34. These results reveal the complexity of Miller’s work and his desire to separate myths about gangs which have always been prevalent in media coverage from the findings of research.

  • 35 Miller, Violence by Youth Gangs…, p. 25.

20Miller’s attempt to define gangs in the 1970s is interesting because he interviewed youth service workers, law enforcement officers and others who dealt with gang-involved juveniles on a regular basis and asked these stakeholders how they defined gangs. His definition, compiled from the results of these interviews, is: “A gang is a group of recurrently associating individuals with identifiable leadership and internal organization, identifying with or claiming control over territory in the community, and engaging either individually or collectively in violent or other forms of illegal behavior”35.

  • 36 Ibid.

21Unlike Thrasher’s definition, this definition explicitly identifies involvement in illegal activities as part of what constitutes a gang, since, according to Miller, 73 % of interviewees listed involvement in illegal activities as one of the defining criteria of a gang36. This increasing focus on the criminal activities of gangs could indicate an increased tendency on the part of gangs to engage in criminal behavior or could reflect heightened attention in the media and the general public about gang-related crimes. Whatever the explanation, this redefinition of gangs to explicitly include criminal activities is an important development.

  • 37 Miller, “Violent Crimes in City Gangs…”.

22Following Gramsci’s focus on history, it is important once again to properly situate Miller’s work within the specific historical moment in which it appeared. The 1960s and 1970s in the US were times of increased fear over crime – particularly violent crime – and this fear might have played a role in the crime-focused redefinition of gangs in Miller’s report37. The 1960s and 1970s were also eras of expanding government and an increasingly public-welfare-centered approach to government policy. It is thus not surprising that much of Miller’s work maintained a problem-oriented approach to gang activity; it seems that the goal of his 1975 report, for example, was to help policymakers and practitioners learn more about gangs so that they could more effectively control gang violence. This stance mirrors Gramsci’s idea about the active, practical roles that many academic experts play in capitalist societies. This willingness to actively work with policymakers and try to solve the gang “problem” is a concept that would reappear in later decades.

3. Crossing the Pond: The Birmingham School and Research against the Grain

  • 38 Trevor Bennett, Katy Holloway, “Gang Membership, Drugs and Crime in the UK”, in British Journal of (...)
  • 39 Davies, “Street Gangs, Crime and Policing in Glasgow…”.

23This chapter’s analysis of gang research has, up until this point, focused solely on the activities of American academic experts. This focus is due to the smaller quantity and more recent provenance of most gang-related research in the United Kingdom38. Although historical analyses show that gangs received significant media attention and public interest in the early 20th century (and, in some cities, even the 19th century) in Great Britain, a formal academic research tradition into gangs developed much later in the UK than in the US39. Partly because of this later emergence, UK research has always been influenced by – and sometimes been framed in opposition to – US research into gang activities. Although the body of research that emerged from the Birmingham School in the 1960s and 1970s did not mark the beginning of British academic engagement with gangs and gang activities, the Birmingham School left an indelible mark on gang-related research on both sides of the Atlantic and provides a fitting introduction to the very different perspective that many British academic experts brought to the study of gangs.

  • 40 See, for example: Stuart Hall, Tony Jefferson (ed.), Resistance through Rituals: Youth Subcultures (...)
  • 41 Jean Lave, Paul Duguid, Nadine Fernandez, Erik Axel, “Coming of Age in Birmingham: Cultural Studie (...)
  • 42 Jeff Ferrell, Keith Hayward, Jock Young, Cultural Criminology, London, Sage, 2008, p. 34.
  • 43 Martin E. Wolfgang, Franco Ferracuti, The Subculture of Violence: Towards an Integrated Theory in (...)
  • 44 See, for example: Hall, Jefferson, Resistance through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Brita (...)
  • 45 Robert Colvile, “Decade That Dimmed: The Strike-Hit Seventies”, in The Telegraph, 29 July 2006, av (...)
  • 46 David Downes, “The Sociology of Crime and Social Control in Britain, 1960-1987”, in British Journa (...)

24The Birmingham School refers to the set of theories developed predominately at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) at the University of Birmingham. In the 1970s, many of the academic experts affiliated with this school produced studies and theoretical essays about the numerous youth subcultures that populated the UK during this era40. Mods, rockers, skinheads, teddy boys and other organized youth groups greatly intrigued these academics41. Although subcultures share similarities with gangs, these two concepts are not identical; one contemporary definition holds that subcultures can be defined as groups within a larger society which maintain their own “ways of dress, moral standards, myths, political ideologies, art forms, work norms” and other attributes which distinguish them from more dominant cultural units42. As with gangs, the subcultures that the Birmingham School academic experts studied were often primarily comprised of young people from disempowered backgrounds. A long history of research that predates the Birmingham School has explored whether and how members of different subcultures are more prone to violence than members of the mainstream culture43. Some of the research produced by academic experts from the Birmingham School explored the connections between different subcultural groups and violence, but most of the research from this movement focused on other, nonviolent aspects of subcultures. Indeed, in contrast to Walter B. Miller and other American academic experts of this period who adopted a problem-and policy-oriented approach to studying the violence of youth gangs, Birmingham researchers were more interested in exploring the specific material details of subcultural life44. This movement away from the problem-oriented American approach to gangs can be at least partially traced back to historical developments which were taking place in British society during that period. The 1970s were a period of turmoil when economic crises and large-scale strikes crippled Britain45. At the same time important transformations took place in the social sciences; chief among these were a growing interest in sociology and an increased desire by many criminologists and sociologists to break away from the strong American influence which had often guided their disciplines in the past46. Thus the Birmingham School can be seen as part of a larger movement in British social and cultural studies to create a more unique and relevant British tradition in these areas.

  • 47 Lave, Duguid, Fernandez, Axel, “Coming of Age in Birmingham…”.
  • 48 Tim Newburn, “Youth Crime and Youth Culture”, in Mike Maguire, Rod Morgan, Robert Reiner (ed.), Th (...)

25Although it is difficult to generalize about the wide diversity of perspectives that different scholars within the Birmingham School held, many of these theories were marked by two characteristics: first, by their emphasis on social class in the formation of subcultures; and, second, by their attention to the style – the clothing, musical tastes, and social attitudes – of subcultural groups47. The ways in which subcultural members used clothing and music to formulate a shared identity interested many Birmingham subcultural theorists who interpreted these stylistic decisions as “a symbolic critique of the dominant culture in which ‘style’ was read as a form of resistance48”. In other words, many Birmingham researchers interpreted the clothing, music, and other stylistic elements of gang and subculture as the means through which these groups unified themselves and expressed their collective identities – identities which were often read as oppositional by those in “mainstream” society.

  • 49 John Clarke, “Skinheads & the magical recovery of community”, in Stuart Hall, Tony Jefferson (ed.) (...)
  • 50 See Cohen, Delinquent Boys: The Culture of the Gang
  • 51 Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style, London, Methuen, 1979.
  • 52 See, for example, Ibid.

26Since many subcultures, such as skinheads, appropriated clothing styles which were considered to be working-class, some Birmingham School researchers argued that the stylistic choices of subcultural members also promoted their interest in formulating working-class identities as well49. In this way the Birmingham School perspective is somewhat related to the ideas of Albert K. Cohen that were discussed in a previous section. Like Cohen, who argued that the involvement of working-class youth in gangs was a response to their exclusion from middle-class values and mainstream society,50 Birmingham School scholars such as Dick Hebdige viewed the decisions by members of youth subcultures to dress and behave in certain ways as their strategies for coping with a capitalist and discriminatory society51. Just as Cohen asserted that the values held by gang members were oppositional to the values held by mainstream, middle-class society, many Birmingham School intellectuals argued that the stylistic choices of subcultural members signaled their opposition to mainstream, middle-class society as well. Interestingly, however, as Gramsci would likely observe, there is an irony embedded in these subcultures’ efforts to resist mainstream societal values. For the articles of their resistance – clothing, music collections, hairstyles – were often material goods which are products of capitalist values. And capitalist values are, of course, the dominant values in society. Although many Birmingham School scholars were certainly well-versed in, and influenced by, Gramsci’s work,52 it would have been fascinating if Gramsci had lived to see the emergence of the Birmingham School so he could comment on its scholars’ main theoretical tenets.

  • 53 Hall, Jefferson, Resistance through Rituals
  • 54 Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style
  • 55 Susan Willis, “Hardcore Subculture American Style”, in Critical Inquiry, 19 (2), 1993, p. 365-383.

27The Birmingham School had a significant impact on social and cultural studies in the UK – an impact which is still felt today – and many of the texts that Birmingham School scholars produced about subcultures during this period, such as the collection of essays Resistance through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain53 and Dick Hebdige’s book Subculture: The Meaning of Style54, remain very influential in both Europe and the US55. Although most Birmingham School scholars focused their attention on subcultures rather than gangs, the similarities between these two concepts – both refer, in many cases, to groups of youths which are in some way distanced from “mainstream” society – mean that the work of the Birmingham School is still absolutely vital to consider when analyzing the role of experts in defining youth gangs.

3.1. Research against the Grain in the US

  • 56 Gary Stewart, “Black Codes and Broken Windows: The Legacy of Racial Hegemony in Anti-Gang Civil In (...)

28A minority of academic experts in the US also engaged in “against-the-grain” research about gangs in the 1980s and 1990s. Some of this research was similar in tone to the research of the Bimingham School, although it is not clear to what extent British scholars from that movement influenced their American counterparts. In particular, American scholars writing in this vein were concerned about the broad and increasingly criminalized definitions of gangs that had emerged in the US in the second half of the 20th century. The potential for these definitions to discriminate against disempowered poor and minority youth became a major fear in some circles. For example, in 1998 Gary Stewart published an article in the Yale Law Journal which assessed the potentially discriminatory features of certain anti-gang measures, called civil injunctions, employed in the US state of California56. Stewart expressed his concern that some youths could be unfairly harmed by these injunctions and wrote that some young people:

  • 57 Stewart, “Black Codes and Broken Windows…”, p. 2251.

[…] might be labeled ‘associates’ of gangs simply because they belong to racial minorities and share living quarters or public spaces with street gang members. Others might actively affiliate with street gang members but lack the specific intent to further a gang's criminal activities. Either way, anti-gang civil injunctions promise to perpetuate racial stigma and oppression57.

  • 58 Ibid., p. 2250.

29In other words, according to Stewart, the potentially stigmatizing nature of broad, criminalizing gang definitions, and the policies that follow such definitions, could have serious consequences for disempowered youth. Stewart went on to argue that such anti-gang initiatives could illustrate “aversive racism”, or a more subtle form of racism that is often cloaked in concerns about security, culture or values, rather than explicitly racist language58.

  • 59 Jeffrey J. Mayer, “Individual Moral Responsibility and the Criminalization of Youth Gangs”, in Wak (...)
  • 60 Ibid., p. 954.

30This concern that efforts to control gangs would end up criminalizing innocent, disempowered youth is echoed in the statements of other American academic experts in the 1980s and 1990s59. In 1993 the American legal scholar Jeffrey J. Mayer published a paper which criticized many anti-gang laws and, in line with the perspectives of some Birmingham School scholars, observed that youths form oppositional groups in society for many different reasons and that these groups do not always become randomly-violent youth gangs. Mayer asserted that: “The informal organization of youths into groups is neither necessarily improper nor preventable. If social ties are independent of the criminal ties or, even if the two overlap, if the criminal activities play only a minor role in social actions driven by social ties, gangs are not a social problem”60.

31Thus Mayer was concerned that, under the umbrella of anti-gang regulations, many innocent youth groups and associations could also come under attack. Mayer’s statement also expresses sentiments somewhat similar to those Thrasher put forward some 65 years earlier, that not all organized groups of young people are by definition antisocial or potentially criminal.

  • 61 Martín Sanchez Jankowski, Islands in the Street: Gangs and American Urban Society, Berkeley, Unive (...)

32This tradition of against-the-grain American research is also present in the work of Martín Sanchez Jankowski who, in his famous work Islands in the Street: Gangs and American Urban Society, reported his observations of 37 gangs in three large American cities61. Sanchez Jankowski interviewed numerous gang members and allowed them to tell their own stories and articulate their own perspectives in his book. This eagerness to portray gang members as people – however flawed and challenged by circumstances they might be – marked an important break from the pathologizing perspectives of the past.

  • 62 Mayer, “Individual Moral Responsibility …”, p. 954.

33Unfortunately, however, the complex nuances of this “against-the-grain” perspective did not receive significant attention in the popular media; instead, throughout this period, most media outlets still primarily focused on the criminal activities of gangs, a fact which Mayer criticized. Mayer observed that: “The media treats gangs and their presence or absence in a community as a fact apart from the people of the local community, something akin to a disease or a military attack. This perception of gangs as an alien presence or an invading force dominates high profile news accounts even in the face of contradictory evidence”62.

34These concerns about inaccuracies and alarmist media coverage of gangs mirror the concerns of Walter B. Miller in a previous decade, which were discussed earlier in this chapter. Although most of the critiques of these American experts did not rise to the level of the total social re-assessments put forward by the Birmingham School in the UK, these perspectives were still important. In particular, the US experts’ concerns about the possible discrimination implicit in some anti-gang regulations highlighted the potential of broad definitions of gangs to harm disempowered youths.

4. The 1980s Explosion of Gang Research

  • 63 Darrell Steffensmeier, Miles D. Harer, “Did Crime Rise or Fall During the Reagan Presidency? The E (...)

35Although the “against-the-grain” framework described in the previous section represented an important perspective in some American gang research in the final decades of the 20th century, the dominant thread of American gang research in this period retained the problem-centered, practical focus identified in the earlier section about the work of Walter B. Miller. In the United States, the 1980s witnessed yet another resurgence in the public’s interest in gangs and fear of gang crimes. Not surprisingly, this resurgence took place at a time when political conservatism and concern about illegal drugs were also on the rise in American society; as the criminologists Darrell Steffensmeier and Miles D. Harer explain, the years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency (January 1981-January 1989) were characterized by “a crime-fighting stance” on the part of the government “which emphasized stricter enforcement and greater sanction threat (aimed mainly at street crime and drug trafficking)63”. Thus the resurgence of fear about gangs and the persistence of a problem-oriented approach to gangs can be seen as part of a larger, tough-on-crime historical turn which took place in American society in the 1980s.

  • 64 See Thrasher, The Gang
  • 65 Ruth Horowitz, Honor and the American Dream: Culture and Identity in a Chicano Community, New Brun (...)
  • 66 Gus Frias, Barrio Warriors, Homeboys of Peace, Los Angeles, Diaz Publications, 1982.
  • 67 Diego Vigil, Barrio Gangs: Street and Identity in Southern California, Austin, Texas, University o (...)
  • 68 To find a discussion, which influenced this chapter, of all three of the works mentioned here and (...)

36Although ethnicity and race had played a role in research about – and definitions of – gangs throughout the century, these concepts moved increasingly to the forefront during this period. Thrasher’s very early work had focused primarily on the gang-related experiences of young men from European backgrounds whose families had recently immigrated to the US64; several major studies which appeared in the 1980s, however, examined the gang-related experiences of young men from Hispanic and African American backgrounds. One of the most prominent of these books was Ruth Horowitz’s Honor and the American Dream: Culture and Identity in a Chicano Community65 which was published in 1983. Honor and the American Dream explored the dynamics within a Hispanic-American community in Chicago where many residents were law-abiding, hard-working individuals, but some young people had formed gangs. In a somewhat similar vein, Gus Frias’ Barrio Warriors, Homeboys of Peace66, published in 1982, described gang-related problems in various California neighborhoods but also discussed the community partnerships formed by activists, former gang workers, and other community stakeholders which had endeavored to reduce gang violence. Diego Vigil’s Barrio Gangs: Street and Identity in Southern California67, published in 1988, contained firsthand interviews with gang members and attempted to illustrate the complexities of gang issues beyond the simple criminalization perspective that law enforcement officials often put forward68.

37These are just a few of the examples of the kinds of interesting studies that were published by academic experts during this timeframe. Although the 1980s was certainly not the first era in which academic experts in the US explored the role that ethnicity played in some gangs and in the potentially discriminatory measures that were implemented to control gangs, there was a strong interest in issues of ethnicity during this decade. As described in the previous section, this development was not devoid of any malign consequences since, as Stewart’s and Mayer’s work indicates, gang research and gang definitions could potentially also be used for racial discrimination as well.

  • 69 Ben Marshall, Barry WEBB, Nick Tilley, Rationalisation of Current Research on Guns, Gangs and Othe (...)
  • 70 Bennett, Holloway, “Gang Memberships, Drugs and Crime in the UK…”, p. 319.
  • 71 Marshall, Webb, Tilley, “Rationalisation of Current Research”…, p. 6.

38Interestingly, this persistent focus on ethnicity is one of the features which has typically distinguished US gang research from UK work. Despite the fact that much US research has examined issues of ethnicity and race, these concepts have not received as much attention in British studies about gangs, although some observers have expressed concern about the influence of racial prejudices in some media coverage of gang activities in the UK69. (These concerns echo similar worries about distortions in media coverage of gangs that have been expressed in the US by experts such as Walter B. Miller, as discussed earlier in this chapter, and also reflect Gramsci’s assertions about the ability of language to reflect power dynamics in society.) The difference in the role that ethnicity plays in academic research about gangs in the US and the UK could be due to the fact that studies indicate that a significant proportion of gang members in the US are of an ethnic minority background, but that most UK gang members are from the white majority population70. This is just one of the many important differences that exist between gangs in the US and gangs in the UK. Because of the magnitude of the differences in the gangs that exist in the two countries, some academic experts in the UK have criticized the practice of relying on US gang research to help guide UK policy on gangs71. The development of a larger body of British-specific research about gangs, as well as the further expansion of American research in this area, are discussed in the next section.

5. Gangs in the British and American Contexts at the End of the 20th Century and the Dawn of the 21st

  • 72 James C. Howell, “Youth Gangs: An Overview”, in Washington DC, US. Department of Justice, Office o (...)

39By the end of the 20th century, a substantial research tradition in the US had developed which analyzed many different aspects of gangs. In 1998 the expert James C. Howell compiled a report under the auspices of the US Department of Justice which contained updated information about gangs72. This report claimed that:

  • 73 Ibid., p. 1.

The United States has seen rapid proliferation of youth gangs since 1980. During this period, the number of cities with gang problems increased from an estimated 286 jurisdictions with more than 2,000 gangs and nearly 100,000 gang members in 1980 to about 4,800 jurisdictions with more than 31,000 gangs and approximately 846,000 gang members in 199673.

40This same report went on to define gangs in this way:

  • 74 Ibid.

[A] group must be involved in a pattern of criminal acts to be considered a youth gang. These groups are typically composed only of juveniles, but may include young adults in their membership. Prison gangs, ideological gangs, hate groups, and motorcycle gangs are not included. Likewise, gangs whose membership is restricted to adults and that do not have the characteristics of youth gangs are excluded74.

  • 75 Ibid.
  • 76 Esbensen, Winfree, He, Taylor, “Youth Gangs and Definitional Issues…”.

41As with Walter B. Miller’s definition from several decades earlier, this definition also explicitly identifies gangs as being involved in criminal activities. In line with Thrasher’s perspective, this definition emphasizes age in the construction of gangs, establishing a clear difference between youth gangs and adult gangs. Interestingly, the report states that its definition of gangs is based upon the definitions “offered by the leading gang theorists and researchers”75. This statement illustrates that, although significant controversy remains about how to most accurately define gangs76, by the end of the 20th century a substantial body of research existed which allowed academic experts to ground their definitions in the definitions that had developed over time, thus adding historical weight to the criteria they used to define gangs.

  • 77 See for example: Finn-Aage Esbensen, D. Wayne Osgood, “Gang Resistance Education and Training (GRE (...)
  • 78 John M. Hagedorn, “Gangs, Neighborhoods, and Public Policy”, in Social Problems, 38 (4), 1991, p. (...)

42In the United States, a substantial proportion of the gang-related research produced in the 1990s and into the 2000s adopted the same practical, problem-oriented and prescription-focused perspective that was described in the section of this chapter which focused on American research in the 1960s and 1970s. By the end of the century, many American academic experts, in line with Gramsci’s ideas about the practical activities of experts, had turned their attention toward establishing, researching and evaluating the programs and policies which were most effective in decreasing the presence and violent activities of gangs77. Some academic experts, such as John M. Hagedorn, further explored the societal and structural forces which propel adolescents toward gangs and called for the creation of more jobs and more opportunities for lower-class young men susceptible to joining gangs78.

  • 79 The following web address contains information about the Gang Unit:
  • 80 Economic and Social Research Council, “Youth Gangs: The Facts Behind the Headlines”, available fro (...)
  • 81 Ibid., p. 2.
  • 82 Ibid.

43At the same time, the study and evaluation of gangs in the US became increasingly systematic and formalized during this period, with organizations like the Gang Unit, located within the federal government’s Department of Justice, providing more centralized information about gangs79. Such systematization was not unique to the US and, to a lesser degree, emerged in this same period in the UK as well. To give just one example of this formalization of gang research in the UK, researchers at the University of Manchester established a Gang Research Unit within the Centre for Criminology and Socio-Legal Studies80. This Gang Research Unit at the University of Manchester has engaged in a number of important research projects that have helped increase the British-specific knowledge about gangs. One research project led by the Unit explored the different gangs in an English city and found that gang culture in this city was, in some ways, substantially different from gang culture in the US81. This finding illustrates that although some UK research into gangs still relied on comparisons with gangs in the US, a growing awareness of the differences between UK and US gangs had emerged, certainly by the early 21st century. The report also revealed that, similar to the findings of Frederic Thrasher some 90 years previously: “Most [gang] members saw involvement [in a gang] as a transitional stage before adulthood, and moved away from gang activity at turning points in their lives, such as becoming parents or getting a ‘good job’”82. In other words, researchers were once again reporting that involvement in a gang is sometimes a somewhat typical stage in the life course for individuals, a perspective which supports a view that gang involvement is not inherently pathological and deviant.

  • 83 Simon Hallsworth, Tara Young, “Gang Talk and Gang Talkers: A Critique”, in Crime, Media, Culture, (...)
  • 84 Ferrell, Hayward, Young, Cultural Criminology
  • 85 For examples of some of these different perspectives see: Jose M. Lopez, “Manifestations of Class (...)

44Also at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century in the UK, a strong tradition of “against-the-grain” research about gangs persisted as well, perhaps reflecting the important legacy of the Birmingham School. Simon Hallsworth and Tara Young, two British experts who have studied gangs, reacted against the growing US-influenced academic discourse about gangs, arguing that some urban violence was too readily and easily blamed on gangs83. Similar “against-the-grain” analyses from other British academic experts can also be found in the present day, particularly within the cultural criminology movement, a research tradition which has emerged recently and attempts to understand different social aspects of crime from a multifaceted perspective that moves beyond a narrow, power-and control-based approach84. Although less powerful in the US, such perspectives have also persisted there in recent years and a variety of different perspectives – from more problem-oriented perspectives to class-based perspectives to ethnic experience-based perspectives – have all now found some support in the work of different academic experts85. To employ a Gramscian historicist question, why might this multiplicity of approaches to studying gangs have emerged at the end of the 20th century? Perhaps this multiplicity reflects the growth in interest in academic criminology, sociology, and other social sciences, as well as increased interest from many academic fronts about gang-related phenomena. On a hopeful note, this multiplicity could also signal an increased willingness by academic experts to consider many different perspectives when studying the important issue of youth gang involvement.

  • 86 Miller, “Violent Crimes in City Gangs…”.

45The early years of the 21st century in Great Britain and the United States also witnessed the persistence of media interest in the activities of gangs. The informative but often strident tone of much of this coverage is illustrated by the two sample articles cited in the opening paragraph of this chapter. Concerns about the bias or alarmism of media coverage about gangs have existed for several decades; as discussed in this chapter, Walter B. Miller warned of the inaccuracies in some media coverage about gangs many decades ago86. It is important to note, however, that not all contemporary media coverage about gangs is alarmist or eager to pathologize the very existence of youth gangs. For instance, this quotation appeared in a New York Times editorial about gangs published in 2007:

  • 87 “The Wrong Approach to Gangs”, in New York Times, Editorial, 19 July 2007, available from: http:// (...)

The [Los Angeles] region has six times as many gangs and double the number of gang members as a quarter-century ago, even after spending countless billions on the problem. This issue is underscored in a study released this week by the Justice Policy Institute in Washington. It shows that police dragnets that criminalize whole communities and land large numbers of nonviolent children in jail don’t reduce gang involvement or gang violence. Law enforcement tools need to be used in a targeted way – and directed at the 10 percent or so of gang members who commit violent crimes. The main emphasis needs to be on proven prevention programs that change children’s behavior by getting them involved in community and school-based programs that essentially keep them out of gangs87.

46Although impossible to generalize from just one article published in a broadsheet newspaper, it is encouraging to learn that not all popular discourse about gangs in contemporary life is alarmist.

6. Conclusion

  • 88 Esbensen, Winfree, He, Taylor, “Youth Gangs and Definitional Issues…”, p. 105-130.

47This chapter has traced the ever-changing definitions of gangs put forward by academic experts in Great Britain and the United States during the 20th century. As this essay demonstrated, the definitions different experts have proposed have changed substantially within this timeframe and the question of what a gang truly is remains a controversial issue88. While Frederic Thrasher of the Chicago School produced a broad definition of gangs which did not emphasize their criminal behavior, Albert K. Cohen expressed his definition of gangs in explicitly class-based terms which echoed the Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci’s idea of hegemony. Walter

  • 89 Ives, Language & Hegemony in Gramsci

48B. Miller used the opinions of actual community workers and law enforcement personnel to construct a more explicitly criminalized definition of gangs, while the Birmingham School in the UK was more interested in the material details of subcultural lives than in subcultures’ potential connections to violence. The end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century witnessed the development of a diversity of different perspectives on both sides of the Atlantic. Throughout this chapter several key Gramscian concepts – such as the role of intellectuals in society, the power of hegemony and the importance of historicism in analyzing the ideas of previous scholars – have helped illuminate hidden aspects of the gang definition and redefinition process. Given Gramsci’s interest in language89, it is not surprising that his work can add such insight into the way experts employed language to define gangs. As illustrated in this chapter, the use of language in the juvenile criminal justice system can have significant effects for youths.

  • 90 See, for example: Walter B. Miller, “Race, Sex and Gangs: The Molls”, in Society 11 (1), 1973, p. (...)
  • 91 Anne Campbell, The Girls in the Gang: A Report from New York City, Oxford, Blackwell, 1984.

49Although this paper endeavored to cover many different issues related to experts’ analyses of youth gang activities, some related issues were beyond the scope of this paper. Perhaps the most significant issue which this chapter could not address was the role of gender in gang definitions. Although many academic experts have focused primarily on the activities of boys and men within gangs, a significant body of research also discusses the very specific roles and experiences that girls and women have had in gangs as well90. Some of this research, such as Anne Campbell’s classic study of young women involved in gangs in New York, The Girls in the Gang, challenges traditional views in this area91. How issues of gender influenced – or failed to influence – the definitions established by experts is a question that future scholars in this area might want to explore.

50Although this study only examined the changing definitions of gangs within the US and the UK, future analysts could certainly extend this work to Europe and countries on other continents to determine whether some of the themes identified here also apply to those countries. Ultimately, the issue of gangs, and the issue of how gangs are defined and interpreted by experts, are concerns which are now relevant to many countries around the world.

Notes

1 Kevin Johnson, “FBI: Burgeoning Gangs Behind Up to 80 % of US Crime”, in USA Today, 29 January 2009, available from: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-01-29-ms13_N.htm.

2 Sean O’neill, “2,800 Crime Gangs Ravage UK Streets”, in The Times, 25 April 2009, available from: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6164635.ece.

3 Finn-Aage Esbensen, L. Thomas Winfree, Ni He, Terrance J. Taylor, “Youth Gangs and Definitional Issues: When is a Gang a Gang, and Why Does it Matter?”, in Crime & Delinquency, 47 (1), 2001, p. 105-130.

4 Richard A. Ball, G. David Curry, “The Logic of Definition in Criminology: Purposes and Methods for Defining ‘Gangs’”, in Criminology, 33 (2), 1995, p. 225-245.

5 See, for example: L. Thomas Winfree, Kathy Fuller, Teresa VIGIL, G. Larry Mays, “The Definition and Measurement of ‘Gang Status’: Policy Implications for Juvenile Justice”, in Juvenile and Family Court Journal, 43 (1), 1992, p. 29-37.

6 Malcolm W. Klein, “The New Street Gang…Or Is It?”, in Contemporary Sociology, 21 (1), p. 80. This work is a book review of Martín Sanchez Jankowski, Islands in the Street: Gangs and American Urban Society, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1991.

7 Peter Ives, Language & Hegemony in Gramsci, London, Pluto Press, 2004.

8 Some of the analysis in this section is influenced by the following work: Attilio Monasta, “Antonio Gramsci”, in Prospects: The Quarterly Review of Comparative Education, 23 (3/4), 1993, p. 597-612.

9 Antonio Gramsci, “The Intellectuals”, in Quintin Hoare, Geoffrey Nowell Smith (ed.), Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci, London, Lawrence & Wishart, 1971, p. 3-23.

10 Gramsci, “The Intellectuals…”, p. 5.

11 Gramsci, “The Intellectuals…”.

12 Some of the discussion of these issues in this paragraph is influenced by the following works: Carole Elliott, “Representations of the Intellectual”, in Management Learning, 34 (4), 2003, p. 411-427; Boone W. Shear, “Gramsci, Intellectuals, and Academic Practice Today”, in Rethinking Marxism, 20 (1), 2008, p. 55-67.

13 Gramsci, “The Intellectuals…”. For an interesting interpretation of the concept of hegemony by another scholar which influenced the discussion here see: Kathryn A. Woolard, “Language Variation and Cultural Hegemony: Toward an Integration of Sociolinguistic and Social Theory”, in American Ethnologist, 12 (4), 1985, p. 737-748. Also see: Stephen R. Gill, David Law, “Global Hegemony and the Structural Power of Capital”, in International Studies Quarterly, 33, 1989, p. 475-499.

14 For a discussion of historicism and Gramsci’s work see: Adam David MORTON, “Historicizing Gramsci: Situating Ideas in and Beyond their Context”, in Review of International Political Economy, 10 (1), 2001, p. 118-146. For another interpretation see: Esteve Morera, Gramsci’s Historicism: A Realist Interpretation, London, Routledge, 1990.

15 Peter Ives, Gramsci’s Politics of Language, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2004.

16 Marcia Landy, Film, Politics, and Gramsci, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1994, p. 155.

17 IVES, Gramsci’s Politics of Language…, p. 12.

18 Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks…, p. 38.

19 Andrew Davies, “Street Gangs, Crime and Policing in Glasgow During the 1930s: The Case of the Beehive Boys”, in Social History, 23 (3), 1998, p. 251-267.

20 For a discussion of the Chicago School’s activities and the historical environment in which these scholars emerged see: Martin Bulmer, The Chicago School of Sociology, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1984.

21 Greg Dimitriadis, “The Situation Complex: Revisiting Frederic Thrasher’s The Gang: A Study of 1,313 Gangs in Chicago”, in Cultural Studies <=> Critical Methodologies, 6 (3), 2006, p. 335-353.

22 The information contained in this and the following paragraph is the author’s interpretation of the following book: Frederic Thrasher, The Gang: A Study of 1,313 Gangs in Chicago, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1963 (originally published 1927).

23 Ibid., p. 46.

24 Esbensen, Winfree, He, Taylor, “Youth Gangs and Definitional Issues…”.

25 For an interesting interpretation of the Chicago School’s perspective and work see: Jennifer Platt, “The Chicago School and Firsthand Data”, in History of the Human Sciences, 7 (1), 1994, p. 57-80.

26 The analysis in the following paragraphs is based upon the author’s reading of: Albert K. Cohen, Delinquent Boys: The Culture of the Gang, New York, Free Press, 1955.

27 Richard H. Pells, The Liberal Mind in a Conservative Age: American Intellectuals in the 1940s and 1950s, Middletown, Connecticut, Wesleyan University Press, 2nd Edition, 1989, p. ix.

28 Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks...

29 For a critical analysis of aspects of Cohen’s theories see: Walter C. Reckless, “A New Theory of Delinquency and Crime”, in Federal Probation, 25, 1961, p. 42-46.

30 Thrasher, The Gang…, p. 46.

31 Marilyn D. Mcshane, Frank P. Williams III, “Walter B. Miller (1920-2004)”, in Fifty Key Thinkers in Criminology, Keith Hayward, Shadd Maruna, Jayne Mooney (ed.), London, Routledge, 2009, p. 120-127.

32 Ibid., p. 125.

33 Walter B. Miller, Violence by Youth Gangs and Youth Groups in Major American Cities. Washington, DC, National Institute for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1975, p. 25.

34 Walter B. Miller, “Violent Crimes in City Gangs”, in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 364, 1966, p. 96-112.

35 Miller, Violence by Youth Gangs…, p. 25.

36 Ibid.

37 Miller, “Violent Crimes in City Gangs…”.

38 Trevor Bennett, Katy Holloway, “Gang Membership, Drugs and Crime in the UK”, in British Journal of Criminology, 44, 2004, p. 305-323.

39 Davies, “Street Gangs, Crime and Policing in Glasgow…”.

40 See, for example: Stuart Hall, Tony Jefferson (ed.), Resistance through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain, London, Harper Collins, 1976.

41 Jean Lave, Paul Duguid, Nadine Fernandez, Erik Axel, “Coming of Age in Birmingham: Cultural Studies and Conceptions of Subjectivity”, in Annual Review of Anthropology, 21, 1992, p. 257-282.

42 Jeff Ferrell, Keith Hayward, Jock Young, Cultural Criminology, London, Sage, 2008, p. 34.

43 Martin E. Wolfgang, Franco Ferracuti, The Subculture of Violence: Towards an Integrated Theory in Criminology, London, Tavistock, 1967.

44 See, for example: Hall, Jefferson, Resistance through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain.

45 Robert Colvile, “Decade That Dimmed: The Strike-Hit Seventies”, in The Telegraph, 29 July 2006, available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/1525089/Decade-that-dimmed-the-strike-hit-Seventies.html.

46 David Downes, “The Sociology of Crime and Social Control in Britain, 1960-1987”, in British Journal of Criminology, 28 (2), p. 45-57.

47 Lave, Duguid, Fernandez, Axel, “Coming of Age in Birmingham…”.

48 Tim Newburn, “Youth Crime and Youth Culture”, in Mike Maguire, Rod Morgan, Robert Reiner (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, 4th Edition, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007, p. 580.

49 John Clarke, “Skinheads & the magical recovery of community”, in Stuart Hall, Tony Jefferson (ed.), Resistance through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain, London, Harper Collins, 1976, p. 99-102.

50 See Cohen, Delinquent Boys: The Culture of the Gang

51 Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style, London, Methuen, 1979.

52 See, for example, Ibid.

53 Hall, Jefferson, Resistance through Rituals

54 Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style

55 Susan Willis, “Hardcore Subculture American Style”, in Critical Inquiry, 19 (2), 1993, p. 365-383.

56 Gary Stewart, “Black Codes and Broken Windows: The Legacy of Racial Hegemony in Anti-Gang Civil Injunctions”, in Yale Law Journal, 107 (7), 1998, p. 2249-2279.

57 Stewart, “Black Codes and Broken Windows…”, p. 2251.

58 Ibid., p. 2250.

59 Jeffrey J. Mayer, “Individual Moral Responsibility and the Criminalization of Youth Gangs”, in Wake Forest Law Review, 28, 1993, p. 943-986.

60 Ibid., p. 954.

61 Martín Sanchez Jankowski, Islands in the Street: Gangs and American Urban Society, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1991, p. 28-31.

62 Mayer, “Individual Moral Responsibility …”, p. 954.

63 Darrell Steffensmeier, Miles D. Harer, “Did Crime Rise or Fall During the Reagan Presidency? The Effects of an ‘Aging’ U.S. Population on the Nation’s Crime Rate”, in Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 28 (3), 1991, p. 330.

64 See Thrasher, The Gang

65 Ruth Horowitz, Honor and the American Dream: Culture and Identity in a Chicano Community, New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rutgers University Press, 1983.

66 Gus Frias, Barrio Warriors, Homeboys of Peace, Los Angeles, Diaz Publications, 1982.

67 Diego Vigil, Barrio Gangs: Street and Identity in Southern California, Austin, Texas, University of Texas Press, 1988.

68 To find a discussion, which influenced this chapter, of all three of the works mentioned here and an analysis of related literature, see: Jose M. Lopez, “Manifestations of Class Pathologies in Contemporary Gang Literature”, in Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos, 11 (2), 1995, p. 273-284.

69 Ben Marshall, Barry WEBB, Nick Tilley, Rationalisation of Current Research on Guns, Gangs and Other Weapons: Phase 1, London, UCL Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, 2005, p. 6, available from:

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/jdi/downloads/publications/research_reports/gangs_and_guns_2005. pdf.

70 Bennett, Holloway, “Gang Memberships, Drugs and Crime in the UK…”, p. 319.

71 Marshall, Webb, Tilley, “Rationalisation of Current Research”…, p. 6.

72 James C. Howell, “Youth Gangs: An Overview”, in Washington DC, US. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1998.

73 Ibid., p. 1.

74 Ibid.

75 Ibid.

76 Esbensen, Winfree, He, Taylor, “Youth Gangs and Definitional Issues…”.

77 See for example: Finn-Aage Esbensen, D. Wayne Osgood, “Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT): Results from the National Evaluation”, in Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 36 (2), 1999, p. 194-225.

78 John M. Hagedorn, “Gangs, Neighborhoods, and Public Policy”, in Social Problems, 38 (4), 1991, p. 529-542.

79 The following web address contains information about the Gang Unit:

http://www.justice.gov/criminal/gangunit/about/

80 Economic and Social Research Council, “Youth Gangs: The Facts Behind the Headlines”, available from:

http://www.esrc.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/Images/RESEARCH%20GRANT%20-%20ALDRIDGE%20web_tcm6-31857.pdf

81 Ibid., p. 2.

82 Ibid.

83 Simon Hallsworth, Tara Young, “Gang Talk and Gang Talkers: A Critique”, in Crime, Media, Culture, 4 (2), 2008, p. 175-195.

84 Ferrell, Hayward, Young, Cultural Criminology

85 For examples of some of these different perspectives see: Jose M. Lopez, “Manifestations of Class Pathologies”, p. 276, as well as Sara R. Battin-Pearson, Terence P. Thornberry, J. David Hawkins, Marvin D. Krohn, Gang Membership, Delinquent Peers, and Delinquent Behavior, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Juvenile Justice Bulletin, Washington, DC, Department of Justice, 1998, and Scott H. Decker, Kimberly Kempf-Leonard, “Constructing Gangs: The Social Definition of Youth Activities”, in Criminal Justice Policy Review, 5 (4), 1991, 271-291, among other recent publications.

86 Miller, “Violent Crimes in City Gangs…”.

87 “The Wrong Approach to Gangs”, in New York Times, Editorial, 19 July 2007, available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/19/opinion/19thur3.html

88 Esbensen, Winfree, He, Taylor, “Youth Gangs and Definitional Issues…”, p. 105-130.

89 Ives, Language & Hegemony in Gramsci

90 See, for example: Walter B. Miller, “Race, Sex and Gangs: The Molls”, in Society 11 (1), 1973, p. 32-35.

91 Anne Campbell, The Girls in the Gang: A Report from New York City, Oxford, Blackwell, 1984.

Auteur

(University of Cambridge)
Tiffany Bergin is a PhD candidate in Criminology at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. She received her MPhil in Criminological Research at the University of Cambridge and obtained her BA with highest honors from Princeton University in the United States. She was born in Hong Kong. Her research interests involve the diffusion of policies and practices, the criminal justice policymaking process, and event history or survival analysis methods. Major recent or forthcoming publications: J. Parsons & T. Bergin, « The Impact of Criminal Justice Involvement on Victims’ Mental Health », Journal of Traumatic Stress

, 23, 2, 2010, p. 182-188; T. Bergin, « How and Why Do Criminal Justice Policies Spread Throughout U.S. States? : A Critical Review of the Diffusion Literature », forthcoming in Criminal Justice Policy Review; T. Bergin, « What Factors Influence the Criminal Justice Policymaking Process ?: A Case Study of Policy Decisions about Correctional Boot Camps in North Carolina », forthcoming in Critical Issues in Justice and Politics.

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