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308 CMC Popular Music

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Richard Adams Take Away Examination March 2005 308 CMC Popular Music Question 3) A process of commercial 'recuperation' always leads to the turning of subcultural signs into mass-produced goods. This process of comodification creates a 'diffusion of the subculture's subversive power' (Hebdige 1979) Discuss this statement with reference to specific examples. Essentially what Hebdige is saying with his statement is that eventually a subcultures generic trademarks will cross over into the mainstream. This will in tern render the original intentions of subversion diluted pastiches of there former representations. The validity of this statement is interesting in two ways. Firstly are subcultures subversive qualities diluted through popularisation? And secondly and perhaps more importantly in terms of more contemporary subcultural representations; how valid is the statement that what might be considered subcultures are actually subversive in terms of attempted displacement of a dominant ideology. It is these two areas with particular reference to the Punk movement of the nineteen seventies which I intend to discuss within this Essay/Exam. Looking at the work of Hebdige himself and other writers and theorists in comparison, and also contrasting areas. Punk is perhaps the most obvious musical form which has been linked to subculture. Even Hebdige himself is of the opinion that music and subcultures are part of the same "expressive circle" (Quoted in Middleton, 1990:165). ...read more.


Therefore it can be argued that what we think of as Punk was in fact not the subcultural movement created from the metaphorical hangover the country suffered after the late sixties and early seventies. But in fact an exploitation of that very state of affairs. If this is so then the commodification of Punk like other forms of music from the 1960's Tin Pan Alley Bands of the sixties to the current incarnation of 'Boy Bands' of the Nineties simply a commodity from the start. If one was to take away the record labels and the clothes labels would we still have 'punk' or just an angry youth? However, Hebdige does not agree that sub-culture are commodified forms mass communication from the moment of there conception. After all how can a subculture's 'subversive power' be 'defused' if it had none in the first place. He had though come to see "subcultural styles as less as expressing a groups material position in society than as intervening in existing processes of signification" (Middleton, 1990:164). Hebdige Also subscribed to the 'Structuralist' view of subcultures. Identifying historical structures to subcultures which in many ways outlines what Polhemus stated about in inevitability of Punk due to the historical circumstances which preceded it. Therefore we can now see exactly what Hebdige meant when he questioned the validity of subcultures subversive qualities after commodification-which Hebdige saw as inevitable. ...read more.


We can now see Skateboarding 'Goths' BMX riding 'Chavs'. The lines within post modernity are becoming increasingly blurred. And although Hebdige's statement is true a certain extent. It is what Foucault would call "A regime of truth" (Quoted in Hall, 1997:49) It can never be completely true as there are too many individual, self orientated discourses both hidden and on display within post modern western society. 'diffusion of subversion' via 'commodification' is also not necessarily answering the question as to why certain we do not consider acts to be as subversive as previous generations. Another reason for this stems from the point Storey made regarding the speeding up of 'fashion cycle' by the mass media been lost due to our post-modern individualism, our desire for consumption and gratification? Jameson has highlighted in his writing that "it must be stressed that it's (postmodernism's) own offensive features no longer scandalise anyone and are not only received with the greatest of complacency but have themselves become institutionalised" (Jameson, 1991:56). Jameson therefore seems to suggest that although subversion is still possible. To achieve it on such a large scale as say Punk did; as a movement against a social norm incorporating large numbers of distinct members is now impossible. This in tern renders Hebdige's comments relevant only in terms of history. More recent movements such as 'Girl Power' or Grunge where either to superficial or self referential respectively to be considered subcultures adequate enough for idealistic subversion. ...read more.

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