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Parkour, Deviance and Leisure in the Late-Capitalist City: An Ethnography

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... Might it be possible that Ferrell's desire to strip the marginalized of their actuality-only to present them in ways that accord with his own ideological commitments-suggests he harbors a general dissatisfaction with, and perhaps even distaste for, those with whom he claims to be politically aligned? For if there is no empirical evidence that even Ferrell's own respondents believe that they are engaged in acts of resistance-and if many other ethnographers are now willing to shrug off the yoke of intellectual orthodoxy and depict criminal markets and lower-class life as they are (see, e.g., Briggs 2013;Ellis 2017;Hall and Antonopoulos 2016;Kelly 2020;Kotze 2019;Kuldova 2020;Lloyd 2019;Raymen 2018), free of all the usual rose-tinted liberal gloss-then surely, together, we can finally turn and acknowledge the elephant in the room: the concept of organic resistance is an ideological creation that bears no relation to everyday social reality. It may provide a degree of comfort for embattled liberals, but it tells us nothing of the reality of lower-class life. ...
... The tiny acts of micro-resistance so beloved by the liberal left, quite clearly, do not challenge global capitalism or the logic of its cultural field. In fact, these tiny acts of supposed resistance are eminently commodifiable and provide the system with the energy it needs to grow, evolve and present itself as open, democratic and apolitical (see, e.g., Hall and Winlow 2007;Raymen 2018). The system reproduces itself by encouraging us to transgress in proscribed ways. ...
... In the absence of "intentionality," how on Earth do any progressive political movements ever get off the ground? Ferrell dismisses as "elitist" and "intellectualist" the work of academics who have constructed detailed accounts of the development of progressive political movements (see Winlow et al. 2015Winlow et al. , 2017 and who acknowledge the incisive nature of capitalist ideology and its ability to assimilate cultural antagonisms and use their energy to drive capitalism's project of continuous revolution (see, e.g., Hall and Winlow 2007;Raymen 2018). For Ferrell, this work is "elitist" and "intellectualist" only because the authors of this work fail to reach his preferred conclusions. ...
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The concept of organic resistance has stood as a cornerstone of critical social science for decades. Countless authors have claimed that minor acts of “transgression” should be interpreted as indicators of a proto-revolutionary drive among the marginalized to fight oppressive power. Here, we argue that critical scholars must jettison such baseless idealism and accept the huge amount of work needed to create within people a desire for genuine change. Post-1968 liberal capitalism has proven itself, time and again, able to integrate dissent and dissatisfaction into its project of continuous self-revolution. To move forward, we must accept a regrettable reality: most marginalized citizens dream not of overthrowing the system, but of achieving a degree of security and success within the system as it stands. If critical criminology is to continue to shed new light upon the huge problems we face, the lives of our most marginalized citizens must be represented with a greater degree of honesty.
... The neoliberal ideology of competition, individualism, status and display attached to consumer commodities ensures "the mad dance of identification" (Johnston, 2008, p. 12) occurs along these lines. An alternative Symbolic Order based on trust, cooperation and reciprocity would fashion a different form of subjectivity (Whitehead, 2015;Lloyd, 2018;Raymen, 2018). The key point for this paper is that subjectivity is not fixed and can be transformed, but it is intimately connected to ideology. ...
... Accompanying the Real and Symbolic registers is the Imaginary. This denotes the subject's idealised and internalised notions of the self (Raymen, 2018). As our findings display, consumerism, for example, is closely associated with the subject's Imaginary order. ...
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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to consider the implications of both the Covid-19 pandemic and UK lockdown for the social, political and economic future of the UK. Drawing on primary data obtained during the lockdown and the theoretical concepts of transcendental materialism and the “event”, the paper discusses the strength of participants' attachment to the “old normal” and their dreams of a “new normal”. Design/methodology/approach This paper utilises a semi-structured online survey ( n = 305) with UK residents and Facebook forum debates collected during the lockdown period in the UK. Findings The findings in this paper suggest that while the lockdown suspended daily routines and provoked participants to reflect upon their consumption habits and the possibility of an alternative future, many of our respondents remained strongly attached to elements of pre-lockdown normality. Furthermore, the individual impetus for change was not matched by the structures and mechanisms holding up neoliberalism, as governments and commercial enterprises merely encouraged people to get back to the shops to spend. Originality/value The original contribution of this paper is the strength and depth of empirical data into the Covid-19 pandemic, specifically the lockdown. Additionally, the synthesis of empirical data with the novel theoretical framework of transcendental materialism presents an original and unique perspective on Covid-19.
... Beginning in the late 1970s, this describes the globalized outsourcing and privatization of traditional industries, upon which entire towns and cities proudly hung their collective identities (Telford & Lloyd, 2020;Walkerdine, 2006). Though some areas have made the successful transition into being spaces of 'buzz' and hedonistic experience-building through large-scale investment in the night-time economy (see Raymen, 2019), the locales under study have seen the decimation of community life and an accompanying sense of malaise following the loss of their traditional industry (Mah, 2013;Strangleman et al., 2013). ...
... Devoid of an appropriate productive outlet, the setting of the gym has therefore become a prominent site in which this habitus is played out, with 'the self' having become the primary site of labor. This internalization of labor also speaks to the incumbent political system's focus on the individual (Raymen, 2019;Winlow & Hall, 2006) as collective toil has been replaced by a solipsistic focus upon the self (Smith Maguire, 2008). By practicing deadlifts, bench presses and lateral pulldowns then, Scott can enact the 'techniques of the body' (Mauss, 1973) that once drove Potsford's production of ceramics, coal and iron, despite the potbanks, collieries and furnaces standing empty. ...
Article
This article theorizes a link between contemporary masculinity in post-industrial spaces and ‘hardcore’ gym culture. Over the last three decades the health and fitness industry has grown exponentially, with bodily modification and the proliferation of gymnasia, health supplements and wearable fitness trackers now a dominant means by which many construct their identities. Simultaneously, the onset of wholesale neoliberalism, which has caused large-scale de-industrialization and the global outsourcing of labor, has resulted in a macro-economic shift from production to consumption in the West. Set against this backdrop, this article draws upon two ethnographic studies in ‘hardcore’ gyms to examine the significance of bodywork in the lives of men in two working-class, post-industrial locales in England. First, gym work is conceptualized as a form of both graft and craft within our samples, and the role of the male body as a post-industrial project is considered. Following this, the gym is presented as a site of fraternity which, following the loss of collectivizing industry in both areas, allows men to bond over a shared endeavor and build genuine kinship. Ultimately, we conclude that the gym is a space of production within consumption, furnishing our sample with a means of performing their embodied masculinity and repurposing formative notions of graft, craft, and fraternity in a new adaptive space.
... Today, our engagement with commodified leisure is one of the key ways in which we communicate distinction and status, and position ourselves as cool individuals able to differentiate ourselves from the herd. Until recently, leisure remained at the margins of criminological thought, taking center stage only when 1 3 leisure behaviors transgressed legal boundaries or where scholars identified falsely protopolitical resistance in leisure and consumerism (for more detailed critiques of "resistance," see, e.g., Hall et al. 2008;Raymen 2018;Smith 2014;Medley 2019). The nascent "deviant leisure" perspective, however, represents a coherent project that has begun to unpick the range of harms associated with legal, often culturally approved and economically important forms of leisure. ...
... It is through leisure that we are culturally, economically and even politically represented as existing in a state of voluntarism. Indeed, in enacting our individual freedom and leisure choices, we see how leisure has not just been elevated to a social good but a moral right (Raymen 2018). Rojek (2010: 1) has written that within a society which places a primacy upon the liberty of the individual, "one may hardly dare speak of leisure in anything other than celebratory or triumphalist tones." ...
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This article argues that the time has arrived for leisure and consumerism to become key objects of study for a twenty-first century critical criminology. As global capitalism struggles to sustain itself, it is creating myriad crises in areas such as climate change, mental health, personal debt, and unemployment. Using a zemiological lens, we argue that it is on the field of commodified leisure and consumerism that criminologists can see these meta-crises of liberal capitalism unfold. Therefore, this article positions the burgeoning deviant leisure perspective as a new and distinct form of twenty-first critical criminology—one that departs from traditional criminological approaches to leisure rooted in the sociology of deviance in favor of critical criminology’s recent zemiological turn to social harm. In doing so, this article outlines how the deviant leisure perspective’s emergence at the intersection of zemiology, green criminology and ultra-realist criminological theory enables it to address some of the realities of our times, as well as how the deviant leisure perspective can help explain the normalized harms that emanate from the relationship between commodified leisure and consumer capitalism.
... The local town centre and deprived neighbourhoods were regularly identified by participants as comprising an aspect of the locale's economic decline. Ethnographic descriptions were therefore carried out and this substantiated the interview data by placing sentiments within a wider societal context (Briggs & Monge Gamero 2017;Raymen 2018). ...
... Although managers often only earn slightly more than some employees and their position is also rather precarious (Lloyd 2018), from Katie's viewpoint managers are patronising and therefore consolidate a negative workplace atmosphere (Mulholland & Stewart 2013;Williams & Beck 2018). As labour markets in England under neoliberalism are intensely competitive (Mitchell & Fazi 2017;Raymen 2018;Streeck 2016), employees often do not have the ability to easily ascertain alternative employment. As Katie notes, managers utilise this as a yardstick to ensure worker compliance. ...
Article
Drawing on 25 qualitative interviews, this paper attends to and critiques neoliberalism to demonstrate how management’s enforcement of targets and the expectancy to overwork in various workplaces corrodes the relationship between managers and employees. First, the paper briefly charts how the shift from post-war Keynesian welfare state capitalism to neoliberalism in the global north placed renewed emphasis on maximising profitability, and what this meant for working methods and innovations that managers now use to make an organisation more efficient. This is often regarded as ‘management practices’. It then connects management practices to the political economy and therefore sheds further empirical light on how management practices under neoliberalism impact adversely on workers, generating psychological distress, instability, pressure and a negative working environment. The paper closes with a discussion of how managers potentially perform an ideological function, directing workers’ attention away from neoliberalism and cementing capitalist realism; the negative ideological belief that there is no alternative to the current political economy.
... (In London, this is a result of the Brexit referendum -the UK's exit from the European Union.) 220 Raymen (2018). Raymen argues that cities allow parkour in an "attempt to mainline a veneer of life and 'the social' into the dead-zone of contemporary 'public' space; creating a strange urban ambience of living-death." ...
Thesis
The project examines the proliferation of high-rise luxury towers and real estate investment to understand the transformations of urban governance under financial capitalism. For both the city and finance, urban space is of central importance. For the city, it is the place of interactions, public life and culture, markets, corporate activities, and residential life. For finance, it is the site that makes for valuable real estate invested directly through specific projects and indirectly through financial instruments. Both luxury towers and real estate investment are crucial sites of financialization of urban space which reveal the accompanying transnational transformations of urban governance. The project makes three broad, interrelated claims. First, cities play a significant yet under-appreciated role in financial capitalism because of their power to regulate urban real estate. Second, the increasing integration of urban real estate into the global economy through financial instruments changes who is governing urban space and how it is being governed. Third, through the pursuit of urban space by the various actors acting in the interests of finance, the idea of the public itself is being re-imagined. In making those claims, it first provides a conceptual account of financialization and urban governance in relation to real estate and urban space. It then tells a story of the loosening of global capital controls and the institution of property regimes to protect foreign investors, how much of that investment has “landed” in cities and in real estate in particular, and how urban spaces around the world are being turned into instruments of financial speculation at the same time that individual and cultural subjectivities are shifting towards that of finance. It substantiates the connection between financial capitalism and real estate by exploring various mechanisms through which capital was channeled into international forms of investment and securitized financial instruments which relied on real estate for their underlying symbolic or actual assets. It examines the transformation of urban governance through two case studies: Newham, United Kingdom, and Gurgaon, India, each illustrating different instantiations of the encounter between financial capitalism and local government.
... The perspective also engages with a number of valuable concepts hitherto neglected in criminology, such as Johnston's (2008) notion of deaptation. Authors broadly aligned with ultra-realism have undertaken rich and valuable empirical research, from Raymen's (2018) deviant leisure research into parkour and Hall and Antonopoulos' (2016) online illicit markets, to Hall, Winlow and their colleagues own ethnographic studies of the night-time economy (Winlow and Hall 2006) and working-class criminality (Hall et al. 2008). Finally, alongside Matthews (2014) its proponents make a timely call for engagement with critical realism -a perspective that's insights remain under-appreciated with within criminology. ...
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This article conducts a critical appraisal of ultra-realist criminology, an ambitious theoretical perspective seeking to offer a new epistemological grounding for criminological research. Heavily indebted to Jacques Lacan, Slavoj Žižek, and Adrian Johnston's psychoanalytic theory, ultra-realism, its proponents argue, also builds upon the ontological and epistemological principles of critical realism. This article contests this central claim, asking: what is realist about ultra-realist criminology? Through excavating the real(ism) of ultra-realist criminology, I argue that the project is characterised by key shortcomings pertaining to the espousal of Lacanian/Žižekian theory in its 'transcendental materialist' framework. Drawing on the principles of critical realism, I critique ultra-realism on three key grounds: (a) its construction of a reductive totalizing discourse where all crime can be traced back to a political economic center; (b) its failure to offer a truly stratified account of the criminogenic conditions that produce crime; and (c) its inability to escape the epistemic subjectivism of its key theoretical influences.
... The Nature and Potential of Resistance Ferrell (2019) sets out to defend the relevance of a critical criminological focus on everyday acts of resistance from the ultra-realist critique advanced by Winlow (2007, 2015) and Raymen (2018). These critics, Ferrell argues, view "everyday resistance" as little more than "peripheral mischievousness" or individualistic moments of "hip lifestyle indulgence." ...
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In his article, “In Defense of Resistance,” Ferrell (2019) argues for the importance and centrality of the study of everyday and emergent acts of resistance to unjust power and authority. In my response, I contend that by failing to position contemporary resistance within a coherent theory of the production and reproduction of real life under capitalism, support for free-floating forms of resistance may serve to legitimize and strengthen the status quo, rather than challenge it. Through a Marxist lens, I call for a renewed criminological focus on: (1) the criminogenic nature of capitalism and its structures of exploitation of people and the environment; (2) class struggle and the possibility of a post-capitalist society based on an eco-socialist mode of production; and, (3) the possible consequences of not moving beyond capitalism in the twenty-first century.
... At the core of ultra-realism lies an original account of contemporary subjectivity as it acts in its socioeconomic context (see Hall 2012;Hall andWinlow 2015, 2017;Winlow and Hall 2013; see also Ellis 2015;Lloyd 2018;Raymen 2018). For ultra-realists, many of the twentieth century's key theoretical paradigms are flawed not simply at the level of analysis, but at the foundational level. ...
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In this article, we respond to DeKeseredy and Schwartz’s (2013) article, “Confronting Progressive Retreatism and Minimalism: The Role of a New Left Realist Approach.” In that 2013 piece, the authors contend that many critical scholars are “retreating” from the crucial challenges of our time, and that many more are “minimizing” their critique and truncating the breadth of their critical scholarship. Given the tragedies that await us in the near future, we argue that it is vital that critical criminologists recognize the importance of their mission, ditch redundant theoretical frameworks, and focus again on the realities of global capitalism. We argue that critical criminologists can rejuvenate this crucial area of study by adopting the new ultra-realism.
... Premièrement, les visites mettent en avant qu'un habiter alternatif permet de révéler les richesses du territoire, à l'image du skateboard qui utilise des lieux « banals » pour tenter de réécrire la ville en insérant du sens dans les espaces qui en sont dénués a priori (Borden, 2001 ;Laurent et Gibout, 2010). (Raymen, 2019a). ...
Thesis
https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/tel-03545164 Bien que jouer, se divertir ou flâner permettent de s'épanouir en ville, la place du récréatif n'y est pas si évidente. Offrir des espaces de récréation dans l'environnement urbain fait consensus mais l'idée que la ville soit en elle-même un territoire récréatif soulève des enjeux. Ce travail vise donc à étudier la construction, l'interrogation et la régulation de la ville récréative dans ses dimensions matérielle, sociale et politique. L'enquête s'intéresse au parkour et à l'urbex, deux pratiques de loisir transgressives liées au monde urbain. L'investigation repose sur des analyses bibliométriques pour la construction des orientations de la recherche, sur une immersion parmi les pratiquants de ces activités et sur des entretiens avec différents acteurs de la ville. La démarche est donc exploratoire et inductive, impliquant une certaine réflexivité. Au-delà des questions de dualités spatiales, de revendication, de transgression et de rapport à la ville, les principaux résultats s'articulent en trois niveaux : l'individu, le groupe humain et le territoire de la ville. Ils mettent en avant l'intérêt de tenir davantage compte de l'expérience récréative dans l'appréhension de la ville, de considérer la récréativité urbaine pour renouveler les compréhensions de l'espace urbain ainsi que de reconnaître et d'accepter le caractère diffus et inhérent du récréatif pour que la ville en bénéficie. En somme, ce travail invite à (re)donner une place à la récréation dans le temps et l'espace urbains.
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At times of global unrest and the emergence of a wide range of protest movements, recent intra-disciplinary criminological debates on the potentials and limits of resistance suggest a paradoxical trend. Critical criminologists—in particular, those associated with the ultra-realist perspective—have become increasingly skeptical of the idea of “resistance,” itself. In the context of these discussions, scholars have resorted to dismissing oppositional activities—including social movements and their different forms of protest—that are both intended and recognized as resistance . In my contribution to this debate, and in response to Jeff Ferrell’s (2019) article, “In Defense of Resistance,” I provide a critical reflection on the analysis of social movements in both ultra-realist and cultural criminological scholarship. Drawing from my ethnographic research with the (post-)Occupy movement in the United States, I argue that the dismissive reading of social movements’ resistance and the calls for stronger political leadership are the result of a narrow analytical lens applied to movements, their temporalities, and their historical context(s). In addition, I contend that the harsh criticism of social movements by ultra-realists connects to the aim of developing an intellectual leadership concerned with informing social movement practice and strategy “from above.” Here, as I maintain, the theory and practice of militant research, or militancia de investigación , as per the Colectivo Situaciones, challenges this understanding of intellectual leadership. The insights provided by radical collective knowledge production in social movements, and their critique of the institutional frameworks of the neoliberal university, allow for a critical reflection on the role of academia in resistance. This critical reflection can generate possibilities for social movements’ knowledge and radical imaginations to influence academic theorizing.
Article
To consider the festival’s potential as an activist tactic may seem naïve and disconnected from the colonising practices of event tourism. However, today’s curated immersive experiences are indebted to a wider festival imagination: a spatial imagination suffused with reversal and transgression. In this paper, we trace a transgressive festival imagination through four vectors of reversal that have contributed to how we imagine both festivals and activism: the crowd, play, appropriation and spontaneity. Each point to the significance of festival space as mutable, protean, volatile and transitional. Together, they extend a techne of activist tactics, and contribute to the somatic language of the creative industries’ experience economy. By tracing the transgressive festival imagination in this way, we reveal how the contemporary urban festival and the performative tactics of social movements share visions of contingency, playful performance and an aesthetic-political heightened energy.
Chapter
Why leisure? Given the multiple and widespread meta-crises currently faced by liberal-capitalist society, it may seem like a strange time for a collection of criminologists to come together and write a book on a topic that is as seemingly frivolous as leisure. However, this introductory chapter to the edited collection begins to answer this central question by arguing that commodified leisure actually constitutes the cultural embodiment of our dominant political-economic order of liberal capitalism. Consequently, it is on the field of leisure, and its processes of production, facilitation, consumption and disposal, that we see the harms and meta-crises of liberal capitalism play out. The chapter critiques the existing liberal approaches to leisure in the social sciences that have been overwhelmingly concerned with a negative liberty of ‘autonomous individualism’ that has played straight into the hands of neoliberal consumer capitalism, wreaking serious harms along the way to individuals, communities, the environment and ‘the social’ more generally. It is argued that the unique zemiological approach that constitutes the core of this book allows us to avoid liberalism’s trap, and begin once more to think about the broader social purpose of leisure in order to develop notions of ‘pro-social leisure’ that can facilitate human, social and environmental flourishing.
Chapter
The purpose of this chapter is to provide a brief theoretical introduction to the emerging deviant leisure perspective within criminology. The authors have outlined elsewhere some of the founding principles of the deviant leisure perspective and the forms of leisure and harm with which it is concerned (see Smith and Raymen, Theoretical Criminology, 2016). This chapter intends to go into more theoretical depth to explore the intellectual underpinnings of deviant leisure, specifically its critique of the relationship between liberalism, consumer capitalism and the dominant conceptions of leisure. The chapter is organised into three main sections. In the first section, the authors critically challenge dominant understandings and characteristics of leisure and whether these still hold true in late-capitalism. The chapter goes on to outline the central premises of ultra-realist criminological theory, its understanding of subjectivity and how this can help deviant leisure scholars in understanding why individuals might be willing to harm others, themselves or the environment in the pursuit of consumer capitalism’s ‘good life’. Finally, the chapter closes with some reflections on leisure futures. Specifically, it explores the potential of a de-commodified ‘pro-social’ leisure, what this might look like and the political-economic and cultural barriers to its achievement.
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Resistance to unjust power and authority has long been the angry energy of everyday struggle, the defiant democratization of progressive social movements, and the motor force of progressive social change. As critical criminologists, then, our role is to defend the practice of resistance and to explore its radical potential. In doing so, we can usefully investigate emergent moments of resistance that transcend narrow notions of individual intentionality, and we can trace the intricate interplay between immediate acts of resistance and larger dynamics of social transformation. We can focus especially on forms of resistance that both reveal the operations of power and reverse those operations in the interest of social justice. Most importantly, we can move beyond the sort of faux-radical pessimism that denies the potential of contemporary resistance, and embrace instead a multitude of resistant possibilities.
Article
La concentrazione spaziale delle persone ricche è per molto tempo apparsa come un fenomeno non problematico per gli studiosi e per i policy maker. In questo contesto, l'articolo propone alcune riflessioni sulla letteratura che ha guardato criticamente alla presenza dei super ricchi in alcune città globali, in particolare, a Londra. Se i media hanno concentrato l'attenzione soprattutto sulla crisi urbana determinata dallo svuotamento e dalla perdita di vitalità dei quartieri dove le case, acquistate con fini d'investimento, sono abitate pochi mesi all'anno, si vuole qui riflettere anche sulle conseguenze della presenza dei super ricchi sulla disponibilità di abitazioni a prezzi accessibili, così come sulla contrazione della sfera pubblica nelle aree urbane costruite per queste popolazioni.
Article
Globally, mixed martial arts has seen a staggering level of growth in participation and fandom over the past 20 years. This paper presents the results from an immersive participant ethnography of an urban mixed martial arts gym in England’s North West and the experience of some of its members. Emergent is that the practices of mixed martial arts can be viewed as acts of resistance against neoliberal norms and expectations that permeate the diverse yet everyday lives of participants outside the gym’s walls. This paper applies the sociological imagination of and through the body and draws from the Foucauldian notion of biopower to discuss how, in the search for athletic solidarity, an authentic community is built and maintained around this transgressive pursuit. It is evident that a diverse range of individuals are making and remaking a space in which neoliberal norms, labels and expectations are rejected in favour of a renewed connection with the body and each other.
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