Alex Law and Gerry Mooney



The Decivilizing Process and Urban Working Class Youth in Scotland

This essay seeks to overcome the static effect of de-historicized, fixed categories of the British “underclass.” Specifically, the authors map the socio-historical development of class disdain and disgust across the distinct state-societies of Scotland and England through the frame of Norbert Elias’ account of civilizing and decivilizing processes. Differences in the historical development of urban Scotland produced a colloquial commonsense about lower-working-class “Neds” that oscillates between “humor” and moral outrage. Symbolic power is lubricated at regular intervals by a distinctive, semi-autonomous Scottish media. This is closely associated in the public imagination with more than a century of decivilized violent gang disorder. In turn, this is accentuated by an autonomous Scottish criminal justice system and, since 1999, by the devolution of major administrative state functions culminating in the prospect of Scottish independence and dissolution of the UK state. This fact colors all discourses about the underclass in Scotland.

Scotland, state autonomy, class, underclass, de-civilizing and civilizing processes, criminalization, symbolic power

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 38, No. 4 (2011): 106-126


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