A classic of British cultural studies, Profane Culture takes the reader into the worlds of two important 1960s youth cultures—the motor-bike boys and the hippies. The motor-bike boys were working-class motorcyclists who listened to the early rock 'n' roll of the late 1950s. In contrast, the hippies were middle-class drug users with long hair and a love of progressive music. Both groups were involved in an unequal but heroic fight to produce meaning and their own cultural forms in the face of a larger society dominated by the capitalist media and commercialism. They were pioneers of cultural experimentation, the self-construction of identity, and the curating of the self, which, in different ways, have become so widespread today.
In Profane Culture, Paul Willis develops an important and still very contemporary theory and methodology for understanding the constructions of lived and popular culture. His new preface discusses the ties between the cultural moment explored in the book and today.
Paul E. Willis, an ethnographer and cultural theorist, is a lecturer with the rank of professor in the Department of Sociology at Princeton University. He is a founding editor and current joint editor of the journal Ethnography and the author of Learning to Labor: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs, among other books.
"A forgotten treasure trove that needs to be recovered."--Mats Trondman, Anna Lund, and Stefan Lund, European Journal of Cultural Studies
"Willis masterfully shows how objects and selves interact, indicating to one another the available paths to follow. . . . I hope a new generation of scholars reads this updated edition and aims to follow its path."--Claudio E. Benzecry, Contemporary Sociology
"Long out of print, this new edition of Paul Willis's classic study of the motor-bike boys and hippies is a must read for anyone interested in cultural outsiders, past and present."--Mitch Duneier, author of Sidewalk
"Profane Culture remains a powerful emblem of both ethnographic and cultural-sociological research that continues to be cited today. It has gained even greater relevance from the passing of time--its coupled studies can now be viewed as quintessential reconstructions of mid-twentieth-century subcultures that are now long past. They did indeed capture the spirit of their age, and we can recover the sense of that spirit by rereading this book. But the principal contribution of Profane Culture is contemporary, not historical. The two studies show how ethnography can contribute to the exploration of macro-level cultural structures."--Jeffrey C. Alexander, Yale University
Table of Contents:
Moments Preface to the 2014 Edition xi
1 Introduction: Profanity and Creativity 1
Part One 13
2 The Motor-Bike Boys 15
3 The Motor-Bike 69
4 The Golden Age 82
Part Two 105
5 The Hippies 107
6 The Experience of Drugs 177
7 The Creative Age 201
8 Conclusions: Cultural Politics 223
Theoretical Appendix 247