The end of youth subculture? Dance culture and youth marketing 1988-2000

Bugge, Christian Stewart (2002) The end of youth subculture? Dance culture and youth marketing 1988-2000. (PhD thesis), Kingston University,


This thesis focuses on the concept of youth Subculture, used in both academic and popular discourse to describe a distinct form of youth culture. The thesis focuses on Dance Culture, the dominant youth culture in Britain during the period 1988-1990, but also a unique form of youth culture that challenges previous theories of youth culture, and questions whether youth cultures are organically formed or commercially created. The thesis establishes how the marketing industry has become increasingly adept at understanding and responding to the cultural aspect of young peoples' lives since the youth market was first identified in the late 1950s. The commercial importance of rebellious youth cultures was first established in the 1960s. However, it took the market-driven economy of the 1980s, in which a more style-orientated advertising practice developed, to draw on the style-factor that youth cultures evoke. Due, in particular, to increases in the number of youth-oriented media in the 1980s and 1990s marketing has developed its ability to reach youthful consumers. As a result, it has come to focus on individual youth cultures, re-presenting them to consumers who seek the cultural capital they possess. The central focus is 'youth marketing', an industry which thrived in the knowledge-based New Economy of the 1990s. Interviews .with experts in 'youth marketing' show how marketing interacted with the Dance Culture and its consistent subcultures. It shows, where previous studies of youth Subculture have failed, the crucial role that consumerism, and more specifically marketing, plays in the formation and communication of youth cultures. Marketers have increasingly come to recognise the cultural capital of Subcultures, and have become more influential in the way that they are communicated and adopted by young people. As a consequence, the thesis argues that Youth Subculture is now a concept more readily employed for selling lifestyles to consumers, as opposed to a reliable model for understanding young peoples' culture. Rather than expressions of genuine resistance, youth cultures are, now more accurately viewed as reference points in consumer trends. Previous studies of advertising and marketing have been based on abstract research methodologies, such as textual analysis. This research is unique in interviewing the practitioners who attempt to understand and re-present young people's culture. In this way, it presents a more accurate and grounded analysis of marketing's interaction and comprehension of young people, and also its subsequent attempts to have meaning in their cultural lives.

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