Myths and rituals surrounding delinquent gangs in Edinburgh and Dundee
At the time of this research (1971-73) the 'problem' of group violence had become an area of public concern in Edinburgh and Dundee. The Media and the Courts, as well as those agencies involved in working with young people, tended to put forward an interpretation based on the 'gang' as a structured phenomenon. However, work in the field suggested that this explanation over-simplified the issues involved and that 'ganging' could only be adequately described if it were placed in a social context rather wider than that suggested by any of the contemporary areas of deviancy theory. In short, a brief outline of the 'development' of theories of deviance suggests the need for a 'cultural' explanation rather than a more limited view based variously on infraction, a 'search for differences', the phenomenon, social reaction or a class analysis. Having suggested the need for a 'cultural* explanation, a discussion of some of the major views of 'culture' (especially Marxist and Structural-Functionalist) reveals a tendency towards mutual exclusion, with an emphasis in the former on 'conflict* and in the latter on 'consensus'. Neither seems adequately to approach the central issues of unity and diversity in contemporary British Society. A heuristic and exploratory approach to 'culture' is required which allows for man's ability to adapt to, and sometimes transcend, inequality and 'repression', while at the same time remaining in some way a 'member' of the total society. Briefly, the suggestion is that this problematic can only be resolved, albeit in a tentative fashion, by the 'rediscovery' of the centrality of the symbol in 'cultural' studies. A greater emphasis is required on the ways in which symbolic adaptations 'defuse' and adapt 'contradictions' in the material circumstance and also on the complex ways in which 'key' values disseminate a symbolic 'togetherness'. Again, although these concepts are exploratory, requiring refinement and validation in the field, a discussion of 'ganging' takes place in terms of a contemporary view of adolescence and the primacy of symbolic structures in that 'liminal' period. It is suggested that such a view of 'ganging' as symbolic structure is more informative than an interpretation based on a 'myopic' view of infraction and deviancy without reference to a 'cultural' context.