The problem of ‘subcultural markets’: towards a critical political economy of the manufacture, marketing and consumption of subcultural products

Brown, A.R (2003) The problem of ‘subcultural markets’: towards a critical political economy of the manufacture, marketing and consumption of subcultural products. In: Scenes, Subcultures and Tribes: Youth Cultures in the 21st Century - BSA Youth Study Group Conference, 11 - 13 September 2003, University College, Northampton, UK.

Abstract

The questions I want to pose in this paper are the following: (1) Can there be such a thing as a subcultural market? If so, then how is it to be conceptualised? Is it distinctively different to other sorts of markets? Does the retention of the concept of subculture depend upon the retention of an anti-market theorisation of style as made in opposition to commercial motives and intentions rather than reflecting them? To what extent does such a view conflate a discredited theorisation of a unified dominant culture/ culture industry with the spread of ‘bad’ media popular culture? Must a subcultural market always be small scale and artisanal? Given that all subcultural styles arise out of the distinctive use of commodities produced by media culture industries then can we sustain a view that creativity is to be found outside such institutions or that their commercial logic is parasitic rather than complimentary, even necessary? To what extent does the resolution of this problem reside in examining the full extent and reach of the economic infrastructure of subcultural production and its various histories rather than changing modes of consumption? (2) Can there be a subcultural product or commodity? How is it distinctively different to other sorts of products or commodities? Does the subcultural status of a commodity always depend upon its particular use-value within subcultural practices? Conversely, can some commodities be defined as subcultural because they are produced for the specific consumption style of a subculture? To what extent are the infamous examples of semiotic transformation that serve to legitimate the practice of commodity stylisation (a) uncommon and deeply ambiguous (b) quite unimportant in the subsequent development of subcultures? Doesn’t this suggest that subcultures can only successfully proliferate when there is a stable set of signifiers around which a limited deviation is possible? To what extent are the stylistic tropes that inform such practices a mediated use of complexly constituted art-culture objects made through the organisational resources of the media culture industries? Finally, can a commodity be produced by a subculture for wider diffusion or does this invalidate its status as subcultural?

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions: School of Creative Industries
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 14:11
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2020 14:11
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