I met Geoff Pearson back in 1980, whilst a post-graduate at Bradford University. Trying vainly to be an orthodox Marxist I found him difficult to fathom. Ever willing to enter into argument in the Steve Biko students union bar, he was charming and combative, unwilling to be the disciple of any closed ideology. I thought him to be far too eclectic. Except that two of my treasured books remain his ‘Deviant Imagination’  and ‘Hooligan : A History of Respectable Fears . In this context I wondered what he made of the recent riots. Lo and behold an interview with him has appeared, Respectable Fears Resurface.
What is remarkable is that each time that this social anxiety crystallises around the youth question, it is accompanied by the same vocabulary of complaints. For example, the lack of respect shown to all forms of authority, whether parents, teachers, the police or the courts that is said to be a radical departure from the subordination shown in the past. Young criminals are also said to be becoming younger. Then there is the repeated accusation of family decline and the break-up of parental discipline, often linked to the demon drink (nowadays substance misuse). Finally, the corrupting influence of popular amusements – whether the penny-hop theatres and dancing saloons of early Victorian Britain, the Music Hall entertainments later in the century, the gangster ‘movies’ of the inter-war years, television and rock-and-roll in the 1950s, then video-nasties, hip-hop music and gangsta rap – held to be encouragements to imitative ‘copy-cat’ crime.
It is not that nothing changes. Of course things change. But this long, connected vocabulary of respectable fears seems itself immune to change. It is like some moral dodo, but one that keeps escaping from the museum, and is currently rampaging around the streets in the responses to the recent riots.
It is a short, but illuminating piece.