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Colin Barker

Young Rebs

(Spring 1967)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.28,Spring 1967, p.32.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Delinquent Solution
David M. Downes
Routledge, 42s

Despite its seemingly over-academic opening, this is a very worthwhile and serious contribution to the study of delinquency and of young workers generally. If the early chapters, examining the contributions of American sociological theorists (Cohen, Cloward and Ohlin, etc.) still bear the heavy imprint of the PhD style, the latter half of the book is a stimulating account of the forces making for delinquency in working-class Stepney and Poplar. Downes’ strength is his acute perception of the relations between absence of meaning in semi- and un-skilled work for adolescents, the barbarities of our secondary school system and the aimlessness of delinquent leisure. Rather than treating delinquency as the problem, as has been conventionally done, Downes instead suggests that ‘the working-class boy starts out in a delinquency-prone life-situation’ which constitutes the real problem. It is the absence of delinquency that has to be explained, not its presence.

The early chapters on sociological theory are carefully done, but they overbalance the structure of the book a little. Downes’ sympathetic empirical reportage in East London could well have been extended at the cost of a little of the analyses of earlier theory. Nevertheless this is a book deserving more than a brief glance. Meanwhile Rebel salesmen might try the Aldgate Wimpy.

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Last updated: 3.1.2008