Cover image for Freaks, geeks, and cool kids : American teenagers, schools, and the culture of consumption
Freaks, geeks, and cool kids : American teenagers, schools, and the culture of consumption
Milner, Murray, Jr.
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Publication Information:
New York : Routledge, [2004]

Physical Description:
xiv, 305 pages ; 24 cm
Part 1. The puzzle and the tools -- Why do they behave like that? -- The tools for understanding -- Part 2. Explaining teens' behavior -- Fitting in, standing out, and keeping up -- Steering clear, hanging out, and hooking up -- Exchanges, labels, and put-downs -- Part 3. Why schools vary -- The pluralistic high school -- Other kinds of schools -- Part 4. Teen status systems and consumerism -- Creating consumers -- Consuming life -- Conclusions and implications.
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HQ796 .M493 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In this timely and insightful book, award-winning sociologist Murray Milner tries to understand why teenagers behave the way they do. Drawing upon two years of intensive fieldwork in one high school and 300 written interviews about high schools across the country, he argues that consumer culture has greatly impacted the way our youth relate to one another and understand themselves and society. He also suggests that the status systems in high schools are in and of themselves an important contributing factor to the creation and maintenance of consumer capitalism explaining the importance of designer jeans and designer drugs in an effort to be the coolest kid in the class.

Author Notes

Murray Milner, Jr. is Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia. His book, Status and Sacredness, won the 1996 Distinguished Publication Award from the American Sociological Association.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Countless books are written about the world of the teenager, but this one is unique in its discussion of the link between teen status systems and consumer culture. Milner (Inst. for Advanced Studies in Culture, Univ. of Virginia; Status and Sacredness) contends that teens develop complex status systems to cope with the lack of power and choice they face in the institutional setting of their schools, whether public, private, or alternative. These systems, which operate similarly to Indian castes, provide a source of power and rank among peers. Milner argues that peer interaction is a key determiner to teen behavior, more significant than parenting styles, educational opportunities, or media campaigns. He explains that status systems thrive on symbols and consumerism patterns. And while teens are groomed to be consumers by adult modeling, they are also frequently the drivers of product development, as marketing research testifies. Thus, Milner argues, consumer culture is inextricably linked with the social patterns of teenagers. This scholarly study, based on two years of fieldwork with teens in one school and written interviews with teens in schools around the country, is recommended for students, researchers, and educators.-Lori Carabello, Ephrata P.L., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Using status theory, Milner (emer., sociology, Univ. of Virginia) explains the importance of high school cliques and their contributions to consumer culture. A key premise of his study asserts that high school students are largely autonomous because of time-strapped parents and oversized high schools, yet are largely powerless regarding curriculum, school schedules, etc. Students respond to this powerlessness and autonomy by establishing clearly defined status groups. Milner examines why students participate in acts that to outsiders often seem puzzling, from cruel "put-downs" to food fights. Once he establishes the importance of status to high school students, Milner argues that the status structure in the schools leaves students ideally suited to enter US consumer culture. The author concludes his study with suggestions for school reform. Milner builds on the theoretical foundation created by Max Weber and effectively demonstrates the value of status theory. Explanations of theoretical approaches and research methods are put in appendixes, allowing the text to be more accessible to non-academic readers. A highly useful book for anyone interested in adolescents and school reform. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. R. Gilman Labette Comunity College

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
Part I The Puzzle and the Tools
Introductionp. 3
Chapter 1 Why Do They Behave Like That?p. 13
Chapter 2 The Tools for Understandingp. 27
Part II Explaining Teens' Behavior
Chapter 3 Fitting In, Standing Out, and Keeping Upp. 39
Chapter 4 Steering Clear, Hanging Out, and Hooking Upp. 61
Chapter 5 Exchanges, Labels, and Put-Downsp. 81
Part III Why Schools Vary
Chapter 6 The Pluralistic High Schoolp. 99
Chapter 7 Other Kinds of Schoolsp. 131
Part IV Teen Status Systems and Consumerism
Chapter 8 Creating Consumersp. 155
Chapter 9 Consuming Lifep. 171
Chapter 10 Conclusions and Implicationsp. 181
Appendix I The Theory of Status Relations: Elaborationsp. 203
Appendix II Data and Methodsp. 217
Appendix III Sample Research Materialsp. 223
Notesp. 239
Bibliographyp. 285
Indexp. 299