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9 The Translation of Fantasy into Reality PDF Print E-mail
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Books - The Drugtakers
Written by Jock Young   
Thursday, 02 September 2010 00:00

9 The Translation of Fantasy into Reality

I have discussed and evolved an explanatory framework capable of analysing the moral career of the drugtaker. It is useful here, however, to examine a concrete instance in order to illustrate in detail the type of factors involved. I wish therefore to take as my example the position of the marihuana smoker in Notting Hill, an area of West London commonly frequented by the middle-class bohemian young. First, the area itself is remarkable in that it has a population which contains a large over-representation of young people and immigrants:


The majority of its residents are overcrowded and poorly housed; they are also mixed to an extent unknown in other parts of London. Notting Hill is a series of communities and populations which, although living on each other's doorsteps, often have little contact with each other. There are the English working class, the bohemian young, the West Indians, the Irish, the middle-class professionals and the Polish and East Europeans, to mention only the major groups represented. The large houses characteristic of Notting Hill were built around 1860 for prosperous middle-class families, who have long since gone; they were then subdivided and occupied by working-class families, and more recently subdivided even further to accommodate the young middle-class dropouts, students and professionals who vie with the working class and immigrants for the area. Localities such as this, with a shifting mixed population, are unable to control the activities of their members by the usual processes of informal social control. They appear tolerant and permissive to the extent tbat there is not — unlike in many areas of the city — a monolithic homogeneous population which can dictate patterns of behaviour. It is in such a disunited community that one would expect bohemianism to be able to grow and flourish, and where social control is largely in the hands of formal agencies, chief amongst which is the police.

The theoretical orientation of this chapter centres around the premise, discussed earlier, that a situation defined as real in a society will be real in its consequences. In terms then of those individuals whom society defines as deviants, one would expect that the stereotypes that society holds of them would have very real consequences both to their future behaviour and the way they perceive themselves. Thus Frying Goffman in Asylums3 charts what he calls the moral career of the mental patient, outlining the manner in which the particular images the hospital holds of the mentally ill are internalized and acted out by the patient. In a similar vein I wish to describe the manner in which society's stereotypes of the drugtaker fundamentally alter and transform the social world of the marihuana smoker. To do this I draw from a participant observation study of drugtaking in Notting Hill which I carried out between 1967 and 1969. Moreover, I will focus on the effect of the beliefs and stereotypes held by the police about the drugtaker, as it is a vitally important characteristic of our society that there is an increasing segregation between social groups and that certain individuals are chosen to mediate between the community and deviant groups. Chief of these is the police and what I want to suggest is:
(a) That the policeman, because of his isolated position in the community, is peculiarly susceptible to the stereotypes, the fantasy notions that the mass media carry about the drug-taker.
(b) That in the process of police action — particularly in the arrest situation but continuing in the courts — the policeman, because of his position of power, inevitably finds himself negotiating the evidence, the reality of drugtaking, to fit these preconceived stereotypes.
(c) That in the process of police action against the drug-taker changes occur within drugtaking groups involving firstly an intensification of their deviance and in certain important aspects a self-fulfilment of these stereotypes. That is, there will be an amplification of deviance, and a translation of stereotypes into actuality, of fantasy into reality.

We are concerned here not with the origins of bohemian drugtaking — I have dealt with this earlier — but with the social reaction against drug use. Now the position of the police is vital in this process for they man the barricades which society sets up between itself and the deviant.

There are two interrelated factors necessary to explain the reaction of the policeman against the drugtaker: the motivations behind the conflict and the manner in which he perceives the typical drug user.


It is essential for us to understand the basis of the conflict between police and drug user. It is not sufficient to maintain that the policeman arrests all those individuals in a community who commit illegalities, for if such a course of action were embarked upon the prisons would be filled many times over and it would necessitate a police force of gigantic size. For as-crithinal acts occur widely throughout society and the police are a limited fluid resource, they must to some extent choose, in terms of a hierarchy of priority, which groups warrant their attention and concern. Now in Chapter 5 we elicited three major reasons why one group should perceive another as a 'social problem', necessitating intervention:

1. Conflict of Interests. This is where a deviant group is seen as either threatening the interests of powerful groups in society or where reaction against the offenders is seen as advantageous in itself. The marihuana smoker represents a threat to the police in so far as when occurrence of the habit becomes overlarge and its practice unashamedly-overt con-. siderable pressure will occur from both local authorities and public opinion to halt its progress; to, in short, clean up the particular area in question. At the same time, marihuana smokers form a criminal group which has the advantage as far as the policeman on the beat — and more particularly members of drug squads — are concerned, of providing a regular source of fairly easily apprehendable villains. But to eliminate the problem — especially in areas such as Notting Hill where drug-taking is widespread — would demand the deployment of considerable forces and severely strain the capacity of the police to deal with other more reprehensible forms of crime. It would also be institutional suicide on the part of drug squads, and bureaucracies are not well known for their capacity to write themselves out of existence. The solution therefore is to contain the problem rather than eliminate it. In this fashion public concern is assuaged, regular contributions to the arrest statistics are guaranteed, and the proportion of police time channelled against the drugtaker is made commensurate to the agreed gravity of the problem.

2. Moral Indignation. I have explained in part the way in which the bureaucratic interests of the police force shape their action against the drugtaker, but we have not explored the degree of fervour with which they embark on this project. To do this we must examine the moral indignation the policeman evidences towards the drugtaker.

What I wish to suggest is that there is a very real conflict between the values of the police and those of the bohemian marihuana smoker. For whereas the policeman values upright masculinity, deferred gratification, sobriety and respectability, the bohemian embraces values concerned with overt expressivity in behaviour and clothes, and the pursuit of pleasure unrelated to — and indeed disdainful of — work. The bohemian in short threatens the reality of the policeman. He lives without work, he pursues pleasure without deferring gratification, he enters sexual relationships without undergoing the obligations of marriage, he dresses freely in a world where uniformity in clothing is seen as a mark of respectability and reliability.

At this point it is illuminating to consider the study made by R. Blum and associates'4 of American policemen working in the narcotics field. When asked to describe the outstanding personal and social characteristics of the illicit drug user the officers most frequently mentioned moral degeneracy, unwillingness to work, insecurity and instability, pleasure orientation, inability to cope with life problems, weakness, and inadequate personality. They rated marihuana users as being a greater community menace than the Mafia. The following quote by an intelligent and capable officer is illustrative:

I tell you, there's something about users that bugs me. I don't know what it is exactly. You want me to be frank? OK. Well, I can't stand them; I mean I really can't stand them. Why? Because they bother me personally. They're dirty, that's what they are, filthy. They make my skin crawl.

It's funny but I don't get that reaction to ordinary criminals. You pinch a burglar or a pickpocket and you understand each other; you know how it is, you stand around yacking, maybe even crack a few jokes. But Jesus, these guys, they're a danger. You know what I mean, they're like Commies or some of those CORE people.

There are some people you can feel sorry for. You know, you go out and pick up some poor chump of a paper hanger [bad-cheque writer] and he's just a drunk and life's got him all bugged. You can understand a poor guy like that. It's different with anybody who'd use drugs.
The 'drug user evokes an immediate gut reaction, whilst the criminal is immediately understandable both in motives and lifestyle. For the criminal is merely cheating at the rules of a game which the policeman himself embraces, whereas the bohemian is sceptical of the validity of the game itself and casting doubts on the world-view of both policeman and criminal.

3. Humanitarianism. Here the police seek to curb the activities of the marihuana smoker in his own best interests. They define marihuana smoking as a social problem even though the smoker would deny the label. Humanitarianism is, as I have argued, suspect in that it is often used as a rationalization to cloak moral indignation and conflict of interests.

The policeman, then, is motivated to proceed against the drugtaker in terms of his direct interests as a member of a public bureaucracy; he acts with a fervour rooted in moral indignation and is able to rationalize his conduct in terms of an ideology of humanitarianism.

It is not sufficient to argue that the marihuana smoker is on paper a group with which the police are likely to conflict. Two intervening variables determine whether such a conflict will in actuality take place: viz., the visibility and vulnerability of the group.'5 The drugtaker, because of his long hair and — to the police — bizarre dress, is an exceedingly visible target of police action. The white-middle-class dropout creates for himself the stigmata out of which prejudice can be built, he voluntarily places himself in the position which the Negro unwittingly finds himself. Moreover, unlike in the middle-class neighbourhoods where he comes from, and where he is to some extent protected by 'good' family and low police vigilance, he moves to areas such as Notting Hill where he is particularly vulnerable to apprehension and arrest.


I have discussed the reasons for police action against the drugtaker; we must now examine the particular stereotypes that are held of the drugtaker, how these conceptions structure this response, and how the latter affects the social organization of drugtaking groups.

Our focus of attention then is the interaction between society, represented by the police, and the drugtaker, and the degree to which deviancy amplification occurs. Important here will be the hypotheses the police have as to the nature of drug use, and of the drugtaker as to the mentality of the police. These will determine the direction and intensity of the deviancy amplification process.

L. Wilkins, writing in 1965, utilized this concept to explain the difference between the amount and nature of heroin addiction in the United States and Britain. He suggests that the following differences are critical:
(i) The heroin addict in Britain is perceived as sick, in the United States as a criminal.
(ii) The addicts' perception of the police in America is as a hostile enemy, in this country their perception ranges from helpful to neutral.
(iii) The supply of heroin to an addict is absolutely illegal in the United States; in this country it is freely available through legally designated channels.

In the United States, then, the addict is perceived as a criminal and his supply of heroin can only be obtained illegally. The junkie is isolated from society, he faces constantly the dangers of public and police reaction. He begins to accept the definition of his rejectors and perceives himself as a criminal, and this is confirmed as he is forced into crime in order to pay the high black market prices which are his only source of supply. Society and the police are perceived as an enemy who stand between him and the drug. As a result a junkie subculture grows up which is criminal, predatory, and outlandish. Thus the brutal, obscene and disgusting world which Burroughs so vividly portrays in The Naked Lunch is socially created. And the resulting deviance of the junkie only serves to continue the convictions of the public, societal reaction is maintained, and indeed increases and the junkie is placed beyond the bounds of society in an area where there is little hope of re-entry. The junkie subculture becomes enmeshed with the underworld, its economic base is petty crime, and proselytization to juniors occurs in order fo raise money. Thus addiction is both maintained and spread. In Britain, in contrast, Wilkins argues that the problem is held in check by the designation of the addict as sick and the legally available supplies of heroin. However true this may have been in 1965, the rise in the rate of heroin addiction in the last few years would seem to suggest that we are beginning to drift towards the American situation. This is I believe because of the phenomenon of deviancy amplification, but as this is closely related to the situation of the marihuana smoker and the problem of escalation I will return to this later.

What I wish to argue is that the marihuana smoker in Notting Hill has been subject over the last few years to a process of deviancy amplification, milder it is true than that outlined by Wilkins of the American heroin addict, but none the less significant. Moreover, that it is precisely this process which provides us with a meaningful understanding of the hypothetical escalation between marihuana and heroin.


To understand then the phenomenon of drugtaking in modern societies we must understand the precise nature of deviancy amplification in such societies.
The determining factor as to our treatment of individuals within our society is the type of information we receive about them. Wilkins argues that in modern societies, compared to small rural communities, there is a significant information drop which leads to a qualitatively different mode of dealing with deviants. Whereas in all societies there is a variation in behaviour, in small-scale societies there is much less chance of an individual or group being defined as deviant and being involved in a deviancy amplification process. Wilkins distinguishes three variables as regards the type of information available in a society with regards to the behaviour of a particular individual or group within it. They are:
(i) the channel the information comes by;
(ii) the content of the information;
(iii) the amount of information.

Utilizing these three variables I have divided social systems into three types:

1. The small group or village community
(i) channel: face to-to-face contact;
(ii) content: multi-dimensional;
(iii) amount: large.

In a small society information is diffuse and available from face-to-face contact: the delinquent in a village is known not just for his delinquency, he is known in terms of his position in a kin-network, he is known also in terms of a whole series of human attributes: the cheerful lad who delivers the papers, the boy who worked in his spare time in the village store, and — in terms of some understandable theory of why he stole — the boy whose mother showed him no affection and ran off with Jack the village postman!

All this information, rich and multidimensional, has important bearings on the group's actual behaviour towards deviants. Dentler and Erikson'6 in their study of small work groups have shown that the group permits a high degree of deviation within it and will indeed resist strongly any trend towards the alienation of an individual member. Indeed, they suggest that deviants, by demarcating group boundaries, perform important functions in that group. It is only when the individual's behaviour is perceived as extremely threatening to the group values that they will take the drastic measure of expelling him.

2. The metropolis: at the height of the industrial revolution: before the advent of the mass media

The prime characteristic of large urban societies is the extreme social segregation that occurs within them. It was in fact during the rapid growth of the towns during the industrial revolution that large-scale segregation in terms of class and ethnic groups occurred. Frank Musgrove 7 notes what he calls the 'Gresham's Law of Population Movement' within towns in which the 'bad' population (in the sense of socially inferior) drives out the 'good'. This residential segregation is further reflected in terms of segregated schools, churches, clubs and leisure activities. He writes of modern society:

The suburban bureaucrat may live year in and year out without any but the most fleeting contact with anyone of a different level of occupation, education or civilization from himself. His work is at the administrative headquarters remote from the factory operatives whose destinies he helps to shape; there he associates with others of like kind; he travels home, insulated by his motor-car from contact with any other order of being, to an area of social equals; his leisure is spent in a club with others of the same social standing. We have unthinkingly evolved, or deliberately fashioned, social concentration camps: places in which one social class is concentrated to the exclusion of others.

Thus class is segregated from class, young people from old, rich people from poor, criminals from non-criminals, coloured people from whites. This is precisely what Michael Harrington was referring to when he called the massive hidden poverty of America 'the invisible land'.

In the metropolis of the industrial revolution we can say that, in terms of our three variables:
(i) channel: face-to-face contact for the small amount of the city that each group of people knew;
(ii) content: either multidimensional for their own group or almost non-existent for others;
(iii) amount: small.

But the rise of the media has changed all this; social segregation remains and has indeed increased, but the amount of information we have about other groups within society has risen and is derived largely through the medium of the newspapers, television and the radio. We come then to our third type of society.

3. Modern Urban Society
Studies of the mass media have almost universally shown that they have very little effect on changing attitudes where groups have actual empirical reference concerning the event, people or group in question. If you are actually involved in a strike you will not be affected by the press even though it presents a uniform consensus of opinion opposing the strike. The only effect of the media, on a group who have actual empirical knowledge of a social event, is to reinforce pre-existing attitudes. But the situation in a society of extreme social segregation is that there is widespread lack of direct information of one social group about another. It is in precisely this type of society that one would expect the media to provide a large amount of one's social knowledge. Now, the type of information which the mass media portrays is that which is 'newsworthy'. In a sentence, it selects events which are apical, presents them in a stereotypical fashion, and contrasts them against a backcloth of normality which is overpical. The atypical is selected because the everyday or humdrum is not interesting to read or watch, it has little news value. As a result of this, if one had little face-to-face contact with young people one's total information about them would be in terms of extremes — drugtaking, sex and wanton violence on one hand and Voluntary Services Overseas and Outward Bound courses on the other. But the statistically unusual alone is not sufficient to make news. The mass circulation newspapers in particular have discovered that people read avidly news which titillates their sensibilities and confirms their prejudices. The ethos of 'give the public what it wants' involves a constant play on the normative worries of large segments of the population; it utilizes outgroups as living Rorschach Blots on to which collective fears and doubts are projected. The stereotypical distorted image of the deviant is then contrasted against the overtypical, hypothetical 'man in the street', that persistent illusion of consensual sociology and politics. Out of this, simple moral directives are produced demanding that something must be done about it: the solitary deviant faces the wrath, of all society, epitomized by its moral conscience, the popular newspaper. For instance, if we consider this headline in the People,'8 the atypical, the stereotypical and the over-typical are fused into two magnificent sentences.

HIPPIE THUGS - THE SORDID TRUTH: Drugtaking, couples making love while others look on, rule by a heavy mob armed with iron bars, foul language, filth and stench, THAT is the scene inside the hippies' fortress in London's Piccadilly. These are not rumours but facts — sordid facts which will shock ordinary, decent, family-loving people.

Christopher Logue 9 came nearest to describing the distortion of information by the mass media when he wrote: -

Somehow, but how I am not sure, popular newspapers reflect the attitudes of those whose worst side they deepen and confirm. Pinning their influence exactly, by example or image, is difficult: they use common words cleverly; certain public figures nourish their vocabulary; in a few years we have seen 'permissive' and 'immigrant gain new meanings.

One technique for worsening ourselves seems to go like this: Take a genuine doubt, formulate it as a question whose words emphasize its worst possible outcome, pop the question into print or into the mouths of respectable scaremongers as many times as you can, package this abstract with a few examples of judicial guilt; thus, when reiterated, the question becomes an argument certifying the delusory aspect of the original, true doubt.

What I am suggesting then is that the twin factors of social segregation and the mass media introduce into the relationship between deviant groups and society an important element of misperception, and that the deviancy amplification process is initiated always in terms of, and often because of, incorrect perceptions.

Moreover, one of the characteristics of complex societies is that certain people are allocated special roles in the process of social control. These roles, such as that of the policeman, the magistrate and the judge, tend to involve people who themselves exist in specially segregated parts of the system. What I want to suggest is that the particular individuals assigned to administrating the legal actions against deviants inhabit their own particular segregated spheres, and that the process of arrest, sentencing and imprisonment takes place within the terms of their own particular misperceptions of deviancy.

Furthermore, our knowledge of deviants is not only stereotypical because of the distortions of the mass media, but is also, unlike in small-scale societies, one-dimensional. That is, to take the methylated-spirits drinker as an example, we know very little of him as a person in terms of his individual characteristics, his kin, his way of life, and his attitudes to the world. We know him merely by the label 'meths-drinker' and the hazy stereotype of activities which surrounds this phrase. Rarely — or not at all — have we even seen or talked to him in the church crypts of the East End or at Waterloo Station in the early hours of the morning. Similarly, the delinquent is known — for example — as someone who has stolen; we do not know him as the boy across the street, Jack's son, the budding young footballer, the boy with the cheerful smile. A little of this may be known to the courts through the advice of social workers and probation officers, but it is information which is sadly lacking when compared to the all-encompassing knowledge of villagers about their deviant members.

We are immensely aware of deviants in modern urban societies because of the constant bombardment of information via the mass media. Marshall McLuhan 10 pictures the world as first expanding through the growth of the city and transport systems, and then imploding as the media bring the world close together again. 'It is this implosive factor,' he writes, 'that alters the position of the Negro, the teenager, and some other groups. They can no longer be contained in the political sense of limited association. They are now involved in our lives as we in theirs, through electric media.' That is, in modern urban societies, compared with the metropolis which existed prior to the advent of the mass media, we can no longer have little knowledge of or at least conveniently forget the deviant. He is brought to our hearth by the television set, his picture is on our breakfast table with the morning paper. Moreover, the mass media do not purvey opinions on all deviant groups; they create a universe of discourse for our segregated social world in which many groups are ignored; they simply do not exist in the consciousness of most men. Cathy Come Home is shown on television and suddenly, dramatically, the public are aware of a new social problem. The 'homeless' have become a problem to them. The methylated-spirit drinkers, however, although numerically quite a large population, are largely outside the universe of discourse of the mass media; they exist in a limbo outside the awareness of the vast majority of the population. -

The media then — in a sense — can create social problems; they can present them dramatically and overwhelmingly, and, what is most important, they can do it suddenly. What I am suggesting is that the media can fan up very quickly and effectively public indignation concerning a particular deviant group. It is possible for them to engineer rapidly what one might call 'a moral panic' about a certain type of deviancy. Indeed, because of the phenomenon of overexposure — the glut of information over a short space on a topic so that it becomes uninteresting — there is institutionalized into the media the need to create moral panics and issues which will seize the imagination of the public. For instance, we may chart the course of the great panic over drug abuse which occurred during 1967 by examining the amount of newspaper space devoted to this topic. Thus, the number of column inches in The Times for the four-week period beginning 29 May was 37; this exploded because of the Jagger trial to 709 in the period beginning 27 June; continued at a high level of 591 over the next four weeks; and then began to abate from the period 21 August onwards, when the number of column inches was 107. Recent examples, I suggest, are the skinheads and squatters in this country, and the Hell's Angels and the hippies in the United States.

To summarize, then, the crucial characteristics of the information as regards deviants in modern societies are as follows:
(i) A gross misperception of deviants because of social segregation and the stereotyped information purveyed via the mass media. This leads to social reaction against deviants which is phrased in terms of stereotyped fantasy rather than an accurate empirical knowledge of the behavioural and attitudinal reality of their life styles.
(ii) A one-dimensional knowledge of the deviant in terms of the stereotyped label which we have fixed to him, leading to a low threshold over which we will expel him from our society and commence a process of deviancy amplification. It is much more unlikely in a small-scale society with multidimensional knowledge of individual members that expulsion would occur.
(iii) Instead of utilizing informal modes of social control, we have special roles manned by people who are often particularly segregated from the rest of society, and thus especially liable to misperception.
(iv) Because of the implosion of the mass media we are greatly aware of the existence of deviants, and because the criterion of inclusion in the media is newsworthiness it is possible for moral panics over a particular type of deviancy to be created by the sudden dissemination of information about it.

So, when compared to other societies, the modern urban community has a peculiar aptitude to initiate deviancy amplification processes, and to base this gradual expulsion of the deviant from the community on rank misperceptions.


The police occupy a particularly segregated part of the social structure. This is because of:
1. A policy of limited isolation, based on the premise that if you become too friendly with the community you are liable to corruption.
2. Public attitudes range from a ubiquitous suspicion to, in areas such as Notting Hill, downright hostility.
3. In terms of actual contacts the Royal Commission Survey on the police found that just under a half of city police and three-quarters of country police thought that they would have had more friends if they had a different job. Two-thirds of all police thought their job adversely affected their outside friendships.
4. A fair proportion of policemen are residentially segregated. Thus, a quarter of city police live in groups of six or more police houses.
5. In the particular instance of middle-class drugtakers in Notting Hill, the police have very little direct knowledge outside the arrest situation of the normal behaviour of middle-class youth.

The police, then, because of their segregation are particularly exposed to the stereotypical accounts of deviants prevalent in the mass media. They have, of course, 147 the very nature of their role a high degree of face-to-face contact with deviants, but these contacts as I will argue later are of a type which, because of the policeman's position of power, make for a reinforcement rather than an elimination of mass media stereotypes. In short, a person in a position of power Ids a vis the deviant tends to negotiate reality so that it comes to fit his preconceptions. As a consequence of the isolation of the police and their awareness of public suspicion and hostility, there is a tendency for the police officer, in order to legitimize his role vis-a-vis the community, to envisage his role in terms of enacting the will of society, and representing the desires of a hypothesized 'normal' decent citizen. In this vein, he is sensitive to the pressures of public opinion as represented in the media, and given that the police are grossly incapable because of their numbers of dealing with all crime, he will focus his attention on those areas in which public indignation would seem to be greatest and which at the same time are in accord with his own preconceptions. He is thus a willing instrument — albeit unconsciously — of the type of moral panics about particular types of deviancy which are fanned up regularly by the mass media. The real conflict between police and drugtaker in terms of direct interests and moral indignation is thus confirmed, distorted and structured by the specified images presented in the mass media.


I wish to describe the social world of the marihuana smoker in Notting Hill as it was in 1967, contrasting it with the fantasy stereotype of the drugtaker available in the mass media.

1. It is a typical bohemian scene, that is, it is a highly organized community involving tightly interrelated friendship nets and an especially intense pattern of visiting the flats of others. In the Notting Hill context, it is certainly a more coherent community than that pertaining amongst middle-or working-class white adults.
The stereotype held in the mass media is that of the isolated drugtaker living in socially disorganized groups, or, at the most, a drifter existing in a loose conglomeration of misfits.
2. The values of the hippie marihuana smoker are relatively clear cut and in opposition to the values of the wider society. The focal concerns of the culture are short-term hedonism, spontaneity, expressivity, disdain for work: in short the subterranean values.
The stereotype held is of a group of individuals who are essentially asocial, who lack values, rather than propound alternative values. An alternative stereotype is of a small group of ideologically motivated antisocial individuals (the corruptors) who are seducing the innocent mass of young people (the corrupted).
3. Drugtaking is — at least to start with — irregular. It is not an essential prerequisite of membership of hippie groups. It is used instrumentally as a vehicle to achieve subterranean goals, and symbolically as a sign of the exotic 'differentness' of the bohemian. Drugs are thus an important, although not central, focus of groups.
Drugs hold an incredible fascination for the non-drugtaker, and in the stereotype they are the backbone of the culture. Other activities are ignored, or explained as a result of drug-taking.
4. The marihuana user and the marihuana seller are not, on the street level, fixed roles in the culture. At one time a person may sell marihuana, at a another he may be buying it.11 This is because supply is irregular and good connections appear and disappear rapidly. The drug pusher is better described as a distributor. He makes little profit, sells chiefly to friends, and is well thought of by the group. The import and distribution of marihuana is divided between immigrants and tourists bringing small amounts back into the country for the use of themselves and friends, and limited, sporadic, unco-ordinated activities by semi-professional criminals. Large quantities are often dealt with, but there is not enough regular trade to support full-time crime.
The stereotype, in contrast, is on the lines of the corruptor and the corrupted, that is the pusher and the buyer. The pusher is perceived as being motivated by greed, to make vast profits, and to be connected with a sinister drug pyramid involving close integration with organized crime.
5. The culture consists of largely psychologically stable individuals.
The stereotype interprets the drugtaker's pursuit of subterranean values as indicative of immaturity — unstable young people who have been led astray by unscrupulous pushers.
6. The marihuana user has, in fact, a large measure of disdain for the heroin addict. There is an interesting parallel between the marihuana user's perception of the businessman and the heroin addict. Both are perceived to be hung up, obsessed, and dominated by money and heroin respectively. Hedonistic and expressive values are hardly likely to be realized by either, and their way of life has no strong attraction for the marihuana user. Escalation, then, from marihuana to heroin is a rare phenomenon which would involve a radical shift in values and life styles.
In the stereotype, the heroin addict and the marihuana user are often indistinguishable, the values of both are similar, and escalation is seen as part of a progressive search for more effective 'kicks'.
7. The marihuana user is widely prevalent in Notting Hill. A high proportion of young people in the area have smoked pot at some time or another.
The stereotype, based on numbers known to the police, is small compared to the actual number of smokers, yet is perceived as far too large at that and increasing rapidly.
8. The effects of marihuana are, when taken in a strong supportive culture such as exists in Notting Hill, mildly euphoric. Psychotic effects are rare and only temporary.12
The stereotypical effects of marihuana reflect the exaggerated ambivalence of the mass media towards drugs. Thus, they hold promise of uninhibited pleasure, yet plummet the taker into unmitigated misery. So we have a distorted spectrum ranging from extreme sexuality, through aggressive criminality, to wildly psychotic episodes. The informed journalist, more recently, has found this model difficult to affix to marihuana usage. He has therefore switched gear and indicated how the innocuous pleasures of smoking are paid for by the sacrificial few who mysteriously escalate to the nightmares of heroin addiction.


We live in a world which is, as I have suggested, segregated not so much in terms of distance but in terms of meaningful contact and empirical knowledge. The stereotype of the drugtaker—drugseller relationship is available to the public via the mass media. This stereotype is constructed according to a typical explanation of deviance derived from absolutist notions of society. Namely, that the vast majority of individuals in society share common values and agree on what is conformist and what is deviant. In these terms the deviant is a fringe phenomenon consisting of psychologically inadequate individuals who live in socially disorganized or anomic areas. The emergence of large numbers of young people indulging in deviant activities such as drugtaking, in particular areas such as Notting Hill, would seem to clash with this notion as it is impossible to postulate that all of them are psychologically inadequate and that their communities are completely socially disorganized. To circumvent this, absolutist theories invoke the notion of the corrupted and the corruptor. Healthy youngsters are being corrupted by a few psychologically-disturbed and economically-motivated individuals. Thus the legitimacy of alternative norms — in this case drugtaking — arising of their own accord in response to certain material and social pressures, is circumvented by the notion of the wicked drug pusher corrupting innocent youth. This allows conflicts of direct interest and moral indignation to be easily subsumed under humanitarianism. The policeman — like the rest of the public — shares this stereotype and his treatment of individuals suspected of drugtaking is couched in terms of this stereotype:

(i) The police, the courts and the laws themselves distinguish between possession and sale of dangerous drugs.
(ii) The individual found in possession of marihuana is often — and in Notting Hill frequently — ignored by the police. They are after the real enemy, the drug pusher. To achieve this aim they are willing to negotiate with the individual found in possession. Thus they will say, 'we are not interested in you, you have just been stupid, we are interested in the person who sold you this stuff. Tell us about him and we will let you off lightly.' Moreover, if the individual found in possession of marihuana actually finds himself in the courts he will find himself in a difficult position, namely that if he tells the truth and says that he smokes marihuana because he likes it, and because he believes that it does no harm and that therefore the law is wrong, he will receive a severe sentence. Whereas if he plays their game and conforms to their stereotype, namely that he had got into bad company, that somebody (the pusher) offered to sell him the stuff, so he thought he would try it out, that he knows he was foolish and won't do it again, the court will let him off lightly. He is not then in their eyes the true deviant. He is not the dangerous individual whom the police and the courts are really after. Thus the fantasy stereotypes of drugtaking available to the police and the legal profession are reinforced and re-enacted in the courts, in a process of negotiating between the accused and the accusers. The policeman continues then with evangelical zeal to seek the pusher, the forces of public opinion and the mass media firmly behind him. As a result the sentences for possession and for sale become increasingly disparate. In a recent case the buyer of marihuana received a fine of £5 whilst the seller received a five-year jail sentence. A year previously, the same individual who in this case was buying was selling marihuana to the person who was sentenced in this case for selling.

The negotiation of reality by the policeman is exhibited in the widespread practice of perjury. This is not a function of the machiavellianism of the police, but rather a product of their desire in the name of administrative efficiency to jump the gap between what I will term theoretical and empirical guilt. For example, a West Indian who wears dark glasses, who has no regular employment, and who mixes with beatniks, would quite evidently satisfy their notion of a drug pusher. If he is arrested, then it is of no consequence that no marihuana is found in his flat, nor is it morally reprehensible to plant marihuana on his person. For all that is being done is aiding the cause of justice by providing the empirical evidence to substantiate the obvious theoretical guilt. That he might actually have only sold marihuana a few times in the past, that he mixes with hippies because he likes their company, and that he lives in fact from his National Assistance payments is ignored; the stereotype of the pusher is in evidence, and the reality is unconsciously negotiated to fit its requirements.


With time the effect of police action on the marihuana smoker in Notting Hill results in
(a) the intensification of the deviancy of the marihuana user; that is, the consolidation and accentuation of his deviant values in process of deviancy amplification.
(b) a change in the life style and reality of marihuana use so that certain facets of the stereotype become actuality. In short, a translation of fantasy into reality.
I wish then to go through the various aspects of the social world of the marihuana user which I outlined earlier, and note the cumulative effect of intensive police action:

1. Intensive police action serves to increase the organization and cohesion of the drugtaking community, uniting them in terms of a sense of gross injustice felt at harsh sentences and mass-media distortion. The severity of conflict necessitates theories evolved by bohemian groups to explain the nature of their position in society, and in this process they heighten their consciousness of themselves as a group with definite interests over and against those of the wider society. Conflict welds an introspective community into a political faction with a critical ideology. Thus deviancy amplification results.

2. A rise in police action increases the necessity of the drug-taker hiving off and segregating himself from the wider society of non-drugtakers. The greater his isolation the less chance that the informal face-to-face forces of social control will come into operation, and the higher his potentiality for further deviant behaviour. At the same time, the creation by the bohemian of social worlds centring around hedonism, expressivity, and drug use makes it necessary for the nondrugtaker, the straight person, to be excluded not only for reasons of security, but also to maintain his own definitions of reality unchallenged by the outside world. Thus, after a point in the process of exclusion of the deviant by society, the deviant himself will co-operate in the policy of separation, and deviancy amplification occurs.

3. The further the drugtaker evolves deviant norms, the less chance there is of him re-entering the wider society. Regular drug use, bizarre dress, long hair, lack of workaday sense of time, money, rationality and rewards, all militate against his re-entry into regular employment. To do so after a point would demand a complete change of identity; besides, modern record systems would make apparent any gaps which have occurred in his employment or scholastic records, and these might be seen to be indicative of a personality which is essentially shiftless and incorrigible. Once out of the system and labelled by the system in this manner, it is very difficult for the penitent deviant to re-enter, especially at the level of job opportunities which were initially available to him. There is a point, therefore, beyond which an ossification of deviancy can be said to occur.

4. As police concern with drugtaking increases, drugtaking becomes more and more a secret activity. Because of this, drugtaking in itself becomes of greater value to the group as a symbol of their difference and of their defiance against perceived social injustices. Simmel, writing on the Sociology of Secrecy, has outlined the connection between the social valuation of an activity and the degree of secrecy concerned with its prosecution.
This is what Goffman 13 referred to as overdetermination. 'Some illicit activities,' he notes, 'are pursued with a measure of spite, malice, glee and triumph and at a personal cost that cannot be accounted for by the intrinsic pleasure of consuming the product.' That is, marihuana comes to be consumed not only for its euphoric effects and as a sign of membership of an exclusive bohemian elite, but as a symbol of rebellion against an unjust system. As a result, drug argot changes from description to metaphor: the ideal person is turned on, the unpleasant experience is a bringdown, the enlightened man a head. Reaction welds marihuana into the backbone of the subculture: it is the prerequisite of group membership; the joint passed around the circle of heads becomes the ubiquitous ritual of the new bohemia. Thus the stereotype begins to be realized and fantasy is translated into reality.

5. As police activity increases, the price of marihuana rises. This, together with the increase in the size of the market, makes the business more attractive both for the professional importer and full-time pusher. The small dealer, motivated by social and subsistence living considerations, does not disappear but he becomes more of a rarity and his career is considerably.shortened. For it is the street-level pusher who fits the model of marihuana selling held by the police. His long hair, lack of economic or criminal rationality, make him an easy target. He is subject to a process of deviancy amplification and — as he is the focus of police attention in his corruptor role — takes the main brunt of harassment. Intrinsically part of the subculture, his imprisonment represents to heads the most overt example of social injustice. As risk increases, large profits are more likely to motivate people to enter marihuana distribution than the lure of a prestigious community job or the ideology of turning people on. Hippie, West Indian and Pakistani entrepreneurs become more systematic: the business becomes economically rational. Small-time criminals, previously peripherally involved, are more likely to•see it as a possible full-time occupation. Elaborate organizations begin to evolve. At this point, significant external events have intervened and hastened this process. For the Nixon Administration's Operation Intercept, which attempted to cut supplies of grass entering the United States from Mexico, had the effect of increasing the consumption of hashish in North America.'14 The resin is more easy to smuggle and derives from the Far East, the Middle East and North Africa. London became, as one perceptive underground commentator on the drug scene pointed out: 'a major staging post in the world's drug traffic: every day large amounts of hash are smuggled direct from London to the USA ... as much as half of the hash arriving in London is forwarded direct to the USA where shit fetches between 4 and 4-1 times its London price'.15 The augmented national organization meshes with international networks which stretch from Pakistan to San Francisco. Not that this is centralized to any extent like the heroin market, but it is considerably more organized and professional than before. Violence and rumours of violence emerge; an embryonic drug pyramid begins to settle out of the confused sporadic market of the rest. At the same time, increased customs vigilance reduces the proportion of marihuana (usually grass) brought in by amateurs largely for their own consumption. Grass becomes less available and hashish the staple form of marihuana. As the organization of smuggling becomes more complex, in order to meet the demands of an international Market with high risks, the number of hands through which the resin passes increases. Profit maximization involves the progressive dilution of the resin. These impurities lead to hangovers (although of a mild and soporific nature), which rarely occurred with hashish and grass previously available. Once again, on several scores, the fantasy stereotype begins to be translated into reality.

6. As police activity increases, the marihuana user becomes increasingly secretive and suspicious of those around him. How does he know that his activities are not being observed? How does he know that seeming friends are not police informers? Ugly rumours fly around about treatment of suspects by the police, long terms of imprisonment, planting, and general social stigmatization. The effects of drugs are undoubtedly related to the cultural milieu in which drugs are taken. A Welsh Rugby Club drinks to the point of libidinousness, an academic sherry party unveils the pointed gossip of competitiveness lurking under the mask of a community of scholars. Similarly, the effects of marihuana smoked in the context of police persecution invites feelings which are paranoid and semi-psychotic. The drug subculture, by institutionalizing drug use, initially minimizes and controls psychotic episodes. But when the subculture itself has to become clandestine and cautious, paranoid episodes become written into the taken-for-granted nature of marihuana.
Thus stereotypical effects become in part reality.

7. As police activity increases, the marihuana user and the heroin addict begin to feel some identity as joint victims of police persecution. Interaction between heroin addicts and marihuana users increases. The general social feeling against all drugs creates a stricter control of the supply of heroin to the addict He is legally bound to obtain his supplies from one of the properly authorized clinics. Lack of trained personnel, or even adequate theoretical knowledge of dealing with the withdrawal problems of the heroin addict, result in the alienation of many from the clinics. The addict is either kept on maintenance doses or else his supply is gradually cut. Either way, euphoria becomes more difficult to obtain from the restricted supply, and the 'grey market' or surplus National

Health heroin which previously catered for addicts who required extra or illicit supplies disappears. In its place a sporadic black market springs up, often consisting of Chinese heroin diluted with adulterants. This provides a tentative basis for criminal underworld involvement in drugselling and has the consequence of increasing the risks of over-dosage (because the strength is unknown) and infection (because of the adulterants). But the supply of black market heroin alone is inadequate. Other drugs are turned to in order to make up the scarcity; the precise drugs varying with the availability and ability of legislation to catch up with this phenomenon of drug displacement. Chief of these is methadone, a drug addictive in its own right, which is used to wean addicts off heroin and freely-prescribed barbiturates. As a result of displacement, a body of methadone and barbiturate addicts emerge, the latter drug being probably more dangerous than heroin and causing even greater withdrawal problems. For a while the over-prescription by doctors creates, as once occurred with heroin, an ample grey market of methadone and barbiturates. But pressure on the doctors restricts at last the availability of methadone, and the ranks of saleable black-market drugs are increased in the process. Because many junkies share some common bohemian traditions with hippies, that is, they often live in the same areas, smoke pot, and affect the same style of dress, the black market of heroin, methadone, barbiturates and marihuana will overlap. The heroin addict, seeking money in order to maintain his habit and, perhaps more important, his life style at a desirable level, and the enterprising drug seller may find it profitable to make these drugs available to marihuana smokers.

Some marihuana users will pass on to these hard drugs, but let me emphasize some, as, in general, heavy use of such drugs is incompatible with hippie values. Full-blown physical addiction involves being at a certain place, at a certain time every day; it involves an obsession with one substance to the exclusion of all other interests; it is an anathema to the values of hedonism, expressivity and autonomy. But the number of known addicts in this country is comparatively small (just over 2,000 heroin addicts in March 1970) whilst the estimates of the marihuana-smoking population range up to one million and beyond. Thus, it would only need a minute proportion of marihuana smokers to escalate for the heroin addiction figures to rise rapidly. Besides, the availability of methadone and barbiturates gives rise to alternative avenues of escalation. Methadone, once a palliative for heroin addicts, becomes a drug of addiction for individuals who have never used heroin. To this extent, increased social reaction against the drugtaker would make real the stereotype held by the public about escalation. But the transmission of addiction, unlike the transmission of disease, is not a matter of contact; it is a process that is dictated by the social situation and values of the person who is in contact with the addict. The values of marihuana smokers and the achievement of subterranean goals are not met by intensive heroin use. Escalation to heroin (or methadone and the barbiturates) will only occur in atypical cases where the structural position of the marihuana user changes back insufficiently to necessitate the evaluation of values compatible with heroin use as solutions to his newly emergent problems. But, on the other hand, escalation to other, more dangerous, drugs, for instance methedrine, is a much more likely occurrence. Methedrine, or speed, is a powerful amphetamine whose effects are particularly appropriate to hedonistic and expressive cultures. It is usually to drugs such as these that the deviancy amplification of marihuana users will result in escalation in the type of drugs taken. Fortunately, tight control of the legitimate supply of methedrine and propaganda against its use in the underground press have stemmed this particular escalatory path.

8. As.the mass media fan up public indignation over marihuana use, pressure on the police increases: the public demands that they solve the drug problem. The number of marihuana users known to the police is, as I have mentioned previously, a mere tip of the iceberg of actual smokers. The police, then, given their desire to enact public opinion and legitimize their position, will act with greater vigilance and arrest more marihuana offenders. All that happens is that they dig deeper into the undetected part of the iceberg, the statistics for marihuana offences soar; the public, the press and the magistrates view the new figures with even greater alarm. Increased pressure is put on the police, the latter dig even deeper into the iceberg and the figures increase once again, public concern becoming even greater. We have entered what I term a fantasy crime wave which does not necessarily involve at any time an actual increase in the number of marihuana smokers. Because of publicity, however, the notion of marihuana smoking occurs for the first time to a larger number of people and by virtue of experimentation alone some actual empirical increase occurs. We must not overlook here as well that this moral panic over drugtaking results in the setting up of drug squads which by their very bureaucratic creation will cause a regular contribution to the offence figures which had never been evidenced before.

Police action, then, has not only a deviancy amplification effect in the formal sense of the unintended consequences of the exclusion of the marihuana smoker from 'normal' society; it has also an effect on the content of the bohemian culture within which marihuana smoking takes place.

I have discussed a process which has been going on over the last three years, to some extent accentuating the contrasts in an ideal typical fashion in order to make more explicit the change. The important feature to note is that there has been change, and that this has been in part the product of social reaction. For many social commentators and policy makers, however, this change has merely been indicative of their initial presumptions about the essential nature of the drugtaker. That is, that a minority are individuals with new psychopathic personalities having weak superegos, unrealistic egos and inadequate masculine identification. Inevitably these people, it is suggested, will pass on to heroin, and lo and behold the figures show that this has actually occurred. Similarly, the police, convinced that drug use is a function of a few pushers, will view the deviancy amplification of the bohemian and the emergence of a drug pyramid as a substantiation of their theories that we have been too permissive all along. Thus false theories are evolved and acted upon in terms of a social reaction, the result of which are changes, which, although merely a product of these theories, are taken by many to be a proof of their initial presumptions. Similarly, the drugtaker, evolving theories as to the repressive nature of the police, finds them progressively proven as the gravity of the situation escalates. Diagramatically:


That is, spiral of theoretical misperceptions and empirical confirmations can occur, very similar to the spiral of interpersonal misperceptions described by Laing, Phillipson and Lee in Interpersonal Perception.'16

What must be stressed is that we are dealing with a delicately balanced system of relationships between groups, and between values and social situations, which can be put out of gear by the over-reaction of public and police. It is my contention that the tendency for unnecessary over-reaction is part and parcel of the nature of modern large-scale urban societies, and that a proper understanding of the nature of deviancy-amplification and the moral panic is a necessary foundation for the basis of rational social action. My feeling, here, is that we could quite easily launch ourselves, through faulty mismanagement of the control of drugtaking, into a situation which would increasingly resemble that obtaining in the United States.

1 Excluding Irish who are a fairly substantial part of the population of Notting Hill.

2 Notting Hill Summer Project, 1967.

3 E. Goffman, Asylums, Penguin, London, 1968. 170

4 R. Blum (ed.) Utopiates, Tavistock, London, 1965.

5 See D. Chapman, Sociology and the Stereotype of the Criminal, Tavistock, London, 1968.

6 R. Dentler, and K. Erikson, 'The Function of Deviance in Groups', Social Problems, no. 7, pp. 98-107.

7 F. Musgrove, The Migratory Elite, Heinemann, London, 1963.

8 2I September 109.

9 C. Logue, 'A Feir Feld Ful of Folk', The Times, z3 September 1969. i8o

10 M. McLuhan, Understanding Media, Sphere, London, 1967.

11 This observation is in accord with international information: (i) The Wootton Report (Cannabis: Report by the Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence, HMSO, London, 1968, p. 21). (ii) Le Dain Report (Interim Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, Ottawa, 1970, pp. 318-19). (iii) Erich Goode's survey of the New York marihuana scene (`How the American Marihuana Market Works', New Society, no. 402, II June 1970, pp. 922-4).

12 Howard Becker has charted how the incidence of psychosis caused by marihuana smoking declined as the American pot subculture grew. ('Social Bases of Drug-Induced Experiences', Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, no. 8, 1967, pp. 163-76.)

13 E. Goffman, Asylums, Penguin, London, 1968, p. 274.

14 1 The Le Dain Report (pp. 315-17) notes that grass, long the staple of the Canadian subculture, is now being replaced by hashish because of Operation Intercept, the greater smuggling possibilities of the resin, and the larger profits involved. Concomitant with this is the increasing organization of the distribution network.

15 'Pharmaceuticals: Is London a Dealers' Heaven ?', Friends, 15 May 1970) P. 5.

16 R. Laing, H. Phillipson and A. Lee, Interpersonal Perception, Tavistocli, London, 1966.


Our valuable member Jock Young has been with us since Sunday, 02 January 2011.

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