Contemporary Adulthood and the Night-Time Economy by Oliver Smith (auth.)

By Oliver Smith (auth.)

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Those wishing to challenge this argument often suggest that press campaigns to exaggerate and demonise youth leisure have a historical basis dating back to the Victorian hooligans and earlier. The stirring of public concern over bingeing culture is apparent in the Hogarthian-era depictions of Gin Lane and the punchbowl in A Midnight Modern Conversation much as they are in the 1980s portrayal of lager louts, or the 1990s demonisation of ecstasy in the wake of the death of Leah Betts (Murji, 1998).

For the most part these are corporatised spaces that draw upon the traditional symbolism of the carnival in order to attract consumers to clubs and bars. There is no inversion of traditional hierarchy, and certainly no mocking of the dominant ideology. There also lies another problem with the simple deployment of the moral panic thesis. To dismiss public and media concern over issues of social disorder, violence and other problems surrounding heavy drinking and intoxication as ‘just a moral panic’ is short-sighted, as these undoubtedly constitute genuine social and individual harms that cannot be sidelined in favour of a simple criticism of media interests.

Everybody is free to choose, and, if everybody is let into the shop, then everybody is equally happy. That is one duplicity. Another duplicity is the limitation of its pretence that you resolve the issue of freedom completely once you offer a consumer freedom. So it is a reduction of freedom to consumerism. That is the other duplicity. People are led into forgetting that there could also be other ways of self-assertion than simply buying a better outfit. (Bauman, 1992: 255) As we will see in the next chapter, to consign a critique of capitalism to the intellectual garbage heap is absurd.

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