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In the 1960s, as well as today, “the highest incidence of violent and property crime is among the poor and unemployed, specifically the super-exploited sectors of the working class” (Downes and Rock, 2007: p. 241). What is the reason behind this? Both the Mods and the Rockers were mainly working class. Cohen mean that because these youth groups were mainly working class and that meant that they had less opportunities than them of higher class, they also were not seen to have any specific talents and they did not have any money. Cohen (2009) states that since the Mods and Rockers did not have any social contacts, except for themselves, in society they had to create their own activities which them to take part in deviance.
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Cohen focuses on the systematic demonising and ‘scapegoating’ of the Mods and Rockers. Mass media portrayed the two youth groups as animals on several occasions. This demonology of the Mods and Rockers lead to them being seen and referred to as ‘folk devils’. Cohen explains further that the youth groups were explained in the mass media as bored, arrogant and they were portrayed as enjoying the situations in several British holiday resorts (Cohen, 2009).
Cohen writes that mass media’s role in the moral panic is massive. According to Cohen is manufactured news not uncommon, the mass media is both exaggerating and misleading. When reading this book it feels like Cohen thinks that the mass media is guilty of both misreporting and disorienting the readers. He states that “the media presentation or Inventory of the Mods and Rockers event is crucial in determining the later stages of the reaction” (Cohen, 2009: p. 18). Therefore he was concerned that most of the media coverage was “too stereotypical to be true” (Cohen, 2009: p. 18). One example of this is: “‘all the dance halls near the seafront were smashed’ when every local resident knows that there is only one dance hall near the front” (Cohen, 2009: p. 19).
The methodologies that Cohen uses are interviews, observations and documentary sources. In 1965 interviews were held with the local community (e.g. shopkeepers and taxi drivers), people on holidays and editors of the newspapers. The documentary sources came from both local and national newspapers. The theory that Cohen uses throughout the book is the symbolic interactionism. He presents a number of theorists and their adaptations of the symbolic interactionism, such as; the transactional approach to deviance (Becken), the primary and secondary deviance (Lemert), the deviancy amplification theory (Ditton) and the dramaturgical analogy by Gottman. The two, to me, most outstanding theories are Becken’s and Lemert’s. The first one concentrates on media as a creator of labels that leads to an increased deviance. Cohen explains this as a vicious circle; deviance leads to a public reaction and that creates more deviance and that leads to more public reaction. Lemert in his turn mean that the public reaction to the primary reaction might lead to a secondary, increased, deviance. Cohen puts weight on that primary deviance does not necessarily lead to secondary deviance; “” (Cohen, 2009: p. ooo).
The four aspects of the symbolic interactionism do all play a part in the different disaster phases in the ‘Disaster Research’. These phases are closely described in the book and are as follows: 1. The Initial Problem; in this case working class youth. 2. Excessive fringe delinquency – the youth made their own fun because they did not have much else to do. 3. Social reaction – the mass media starts to write about their behaviour. 4. Operation of control culture – the police and the courts starts to get involved. 5. Increased deviance – the social control leads to even more deviance. Cohen proves this theory in the book because when reading it you can clearly see the truth in it with help of the information that he provides the reader.
“Folk Devils and Moral Panics” is convincing and the majority of theories provided by it are good sociology because they are undoubtedly flexible and therefore it can be used on a number of different situations involving ‘folk devils’ and ‘moral panics’. But, as stated in Mc Robbie and Thornton (1995); as the mass media expands more and more and there is not only journalists that can make their voices widely heard maybe folk devils are not going to be created as fast as before. Today anyone can put their opinions out there and debate because of the development and spreading of internet. In a wider spectrum demonising might not occur as easily as before, because more individuals and groups can influence the process of judging and stereotyping (McRobbie and Thornton, 1995). In McRobbie’s and Thornton’s more recent work of sociology they argue that Cohen “acknowledges that social control is uneven and much less mechanistic than the model of deviancy amplification suggests” (McRobbie and Thornton, 1995: p. 561). They also state that: “it is now time that every stage in the process of constructing a moral panic, as well as the social relations which support it, should be revised” (McRobbie and Thornton, 1995: p. 559). So perhaps this means that there is no more folk devils, at least not in groups: “We argue that ‘folk devils’ are less marginalized than they once were; they not only find themselves vociferously and articulately supported in the same mass media that castigates them, but their interests are also defended by their own niche and micro-media” (McRobbie and Thornton, 1995: p. 559).
I definitely think that this book is good sociological imagination because it links individuals to the more social societal situations and events. To use sociological imagination an ability to see the relationship between private lives and society is important, as well as being critical and think one step further. I think that Cohen does exactly this. When the reasons behind the deviant behaviour of the Mods and Rockers are discussed, Cohen takes the history, both of the deviant youth and the British society overall, into account. Cohen explains the historical circumstances so that the sociology of media and deviance can easily be understood. In fact, he dedicated the entire last chapter (6) to this.
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Cohen also presents several micro/macro studies, such as the Mods and Rockers in relation to the mass media and the societal situation in the coast cities that was covered in the media. Other examples, covered in this book, and looked on at from a micro versus macro perspective are: Muslim terrorists, paedophiles, ‘suspicious’ asylum seekers and ‘troublesome’ young people, so called ‘hoodies’. These are all perceived as deviant in the media, they are also seen as deviant by the society (Cohen, 2009). In this way, this text clearly explains the links between micro and macro levels described in this book.
Cohen is connecting personal troubles with social issues in a very manageable way. C. Wright Mills writes that so be able to completely understand the sociological imagination you need to be able to see both personal troubles and societal issues and the relationship between these; “troubles occur within the character of the individual” (Mills, 1959: p. 8) and “issues are a public matter” (Mills, 1959: p. 8).
This book is seen as a classic and important work of sociology because it is timeless. Cohen is focusing on the Mods and Rockers, but his thoughts and the sociological theories that he discusses can be applied to a range of different crimes, situations and panics in our society. “Folk Devils and Moral Panics” can for instance explain the controversy around more recent societal events such as the escalating immigration, the fear of terrorism and the growing ‘Islamophobia’ after the terrorist attacks in 2001. Therefore, Cohen has written a classic piece of sociology that it is original and probably not like many other sociological pieces because of its width (McRobbie and Thornton, 1995: p. 561).
The example of Mods and Rockers show us that stereotyping, prejudice and labelling often creates situations that are worse than the original situation. The argument is clearly that social control and social reaction strengthens deviance, like a vicious circle. The book allows us to see how media affects us and that is important. McRobbie and Thornton (1995) write that it will always be up to date because it is a study of deviance and mass media that will always be a part of any society.
Referencing in the text – Cohen?
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