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The Sacralization of Disorder: Symbolism in Rock Music

Bernice Martin
Sociological Analysis
Vol. 40, No. 2 (Summer, 1979), pp. 87-124
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.2307/3709782
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3709782
Page Count: 38
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The Sacralization of Disorder: Symbolism in Rock Music
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Abstract

All culture simultaneously reinforces the existing order and offers alternative visions. All symbolic communication is ambiguous. Youth culture is a particular locus of "the sacred" in modern societies. Following Victor Turner it is argued that youth is a "liminoid" stage in the life cycle, characterised by the use of symbols of "anti-structure" as a vehicle for an age-specific social solidarity-"communitas." Rock music embodies both halves of the paradox. Dress, behavior, musical techniques and lyrics display anarchic, taboo-breaking or expressively ambiguous meanings-"anti-structure." "Communitas" is signalled by ritualized symbols of group identity particularly in the beat of the music, in common fashions and through the star performer who acts as sacred "totem." Lower strata youth emphasizes ritual elements while higher strata develop the symbols of "anti-structure" in an extreme individualist direction. The relationship between "anti-structure" and "communitas" is sometimes symbiotic and sometimes contradictory especially when it expresses a cross-class tension.

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