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Hebdige - Chapter 6 - D ICK HEBDIGE SUBCULTURE THE MEANING...

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DICK HEBDIGE " . SUBCULTURE THE MEANING OF STYLE METHUEN LONDON AND NEW YORK
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First published in 1979 by Methuen & Co. Ltd I I New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE Reprinted 1980 Published in the USA by Methuen & Co. in association with Methuen, Inc. 733 Third Avenue, New :York, NY 10017 © '979 Dick Hebdige Printed in Great Britain by Richard Clay (The Chaucer Press) Lief, Bungay, Suffolk ISBN 0 416 70850 1 (hardback) ISBN 0 416 70860 9 (paperback) All rights reserved . .No part of this hook may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in anyfimn or by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writingfrom the publishers.
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SIX Subculture: The unnatural break '1 felt unclean for about 48 hours.' (G.L.C. councillor after seeing a concert by the Sex Pistols (reported New Musical Express, 18July 1977)) [Language is] of all social institutions, the least amenable to initiative. It blends with the life of society, and the latter, inert by nature, is a prime conservative force. (Saussure, 1974) S UBCULTURES represent 'noise' (as opposed to sound): interference in the orderly sequence which leads from real events and phenomena to their representation in the media. We should therefore not underestimate the signifying power of the spectacular subculture not only as a r metaphor for potential anarchy 'out there' but as an actual mechanism of semantic disorder: a kind of temporary blockage in the system of representation. As John Mepham (1972) has written: Distinctions and identities may be so deeply embedded in our discourse and thought about the world whether this be
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SUBCULTURE: THE UNNATURAL BREAK 91 because of their role in our practical lives, or because they are cognitively powerful and are an- important aspect of the way in which we appear to make sense of our ex~ perience, that the theoretical challenge to them can be quite startling. Any elision, truncation or convergence of prevailing linguistic and ideological categories can have profoundly disorienting effects. These deviations briefly expose the arbitrary nature of the codes wlrich underlie and shape all forms of discourse. As Stuart Hall" (1974) has written (here in the context of explicitly political deviance) : New ... developments which are both dramatic and (meaningless' within the consensually validated norms, pose a challenge to the normative world. They render problematic not only how the ... world is defined, but how it ought to be. They 'breach our expectancies' .... Notions concerning the sanctity of language are inti- mately bound up with ideas of social order. The limits of acceptable linguistic expression are prescribed by a number of apparently universal taboos. These taboos guarantee the continuing 'transparency' (the taken-for-grantedness) of meaning.
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