Outcast but not Cast Out: The Effects of Marginalisation on the British Motorcycling Community
Questions surrounding the relationship between culture and politics have acquired a heightened saliency with the rise of the new social movements from the 1960s. The extent to which the two can be separated within modern forms of political engagement or the nature of the interplay between them have been extensively debated for some time. However, it may be argued that there is no sharp distinction, no point at which we may say that “this is cultural” or that “this is political.” Rather, we can acknowledge that there is always politics in culture and culture in politics and move on to the more interesting question of how these inform specific areas of concern.
This paper discusses the British motorcycling community and how the stigmatisation of British bikers from the 1950s has affected the habitus of riders in the UK. The paper explores how the process of marginalisation, and bikers’ reactions to this, laid crucial foundations which were to carry ramifications for political engagement when legislative threats began to confront the biking community from the late 1980s. Further, it examines how developments within the biking community also informed the ability of British bikers to fight back against proposed restrictions.
Downward Mobility: The 1950s-1970s
Although there are no statistical data to support the assertion, it is generally believed that, until the post-war years, motorcycling had held a prestigious position within British society owing to its association with the wealth and glamour of certain people and activities. Motorcycling, consequently, enjoyed a positive image. As one rider argues, “motorcycle sport in various forms was well supported by spectators; motorcycles were a sign of personal affluence in an era before most people seemed to have a car; motorcycle manufacture was a significant export industry.” Another argues, “it was much more of a sort of gentleman’s pursuit, like going fishing or something for the weekend.”
However, during the 1950s and 1960s, two trends were to change this. As the middle classes moved to increasingly inexpensive motorcars, riding became the preserve of the less affluent—namely, the working classes and young people. A man in his late fifties explains how a motorcycle:
was the only affordable form of transport when I was a young man. I mean, young men of my background, my class, couldn’t afford cars…. The only way you could get to work without pedaling your bicycle was by buying a little motorcycle. And… there was a genuine culture around motorcycles then. You know, young men bought motorcycles, rode motorcycles.
Yet its association with youth was to have a detrimental effect on the image of biking. The 1950s saw a distinctive youth culture emerging as young people, with increasing amounts of disposable income, came to form a growing part of consumer markets (Bocock). The growing visibility of this section of the biking community drew attention from the wider public. As one rider in his early fifties argues, “well, they were getting a bad image because of the ‘ton-up boy’ days, because they used to have ton-up races in between the cafes and things like that, and the famous chicken runs.”
If the antics of the ton-up boys, that is, bikers riding at over a hundred miles an hour or “ton” in colloquial English, were causing concern, this was to worsen after the infamous Bank Holiday clashes between Mods and Rockers in the early-to-mid 1960s, when both the police and media reacted strongly to congregating youths at British seaside resorts (S. Cohen). In the wake of these events, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, motorcyclists became viewed with greater societal concern. As a former Rocker recalls, “we were regularly turned away from public houses locally because of that and, if we wanted a run out to Skegness, the police wouldn’t let us park on the promenade.” Yet, he continues, the stereotype being created at that time did not meet the reality of the motorcycling community as a whole:
In the ‘60s... the average biker, as perceived by the press, was a teenager. In reality, probably the vast majority of people that rode bikes were probably mid-twenties to mid-thirties. [So the image wasn’t right], not even then. But the spotty teenager who used to go thundering up and down the road from one cafe to another got the publicity. He was probably 5% of the motorcyclists. They got all the publicity because it was good press, because we did things that were exciting.
It was the minority image that was to prevail, however, largely owing to the mass media, which affected the social image of biking on a number of levels. The first was through the portrayal of bikers as social deviants, that “the media in the 1960s said they were a load of thugs riding bikes… and unless something is done about them society is going to fall apart.”
Second, if the media can be held to be at least partially responsible for how bikers were viewed through an exaggeration in the reporting of events (S. Cohen), it may also be the case that they were more indirectly responsible merely because, owing to the spread of a new kind of mass media, more of the general population could access such images. In the early 1960s,
Working-class people started to get televisions, so more people saw these Mods and Rockers running along the beach. And everybody just automatically gave the Rockers the bad image. Because they were the leather-jacketed thugs, and these other old boys [had] these nice, clean, polished scooters.
Third, the propagation of negative imagery was abetted in the 1970s owing to media portrayals of another aspect of biking: road accidents. This was largely owing to a national television campaign which, although ostensibly aimed at reducing casualties, served to heighten social fears. The “Think Bike” campaign
graphically showed a car and motorcycle colliding. Intended to raise awareness of motorcyclists among car drivers, it actually was the most negative publicity that could have been devised for motorcycling. Every mother’s son became the lad on the bike in that commercial, and so no wonder Britain’s mothers put their maternal feet down…. Ten years later research in schools showed that over 90% of schoolchildren were forbidden to have any form of powered two wheeler. (Waterer 13)
Lastly, however, there is another way in which the media were responsible for the down-turn in the biking image for, in addition to the misrepresentation of actual events, fictionalised accounts of riders are also held to be inaccurate. On both television and in films from the 1950s onwards, British bikers believe that the media have consistently misrepresented them on screen and, through this, perpetuated negative stereotypes. In this sense, riders would concur with Sidney Tarrow’s observation that “the media are not neutral in the symbols that they will receive and transmit” (126).
The consequence of this negative imagery is that media portrayals have demonised the biking community and reinvented the biker as deviant outcast. This reinvention has been possible due an apparent paradox contained within motorcycling: bikers are, at the same time, both visible and invisible. This paradox holds important ramifications for bikers.
On the one hand, riders are highly visible in the sense that, clearly, they are easily distinguishable from cars on the road. This has vital consequences in how bikers are perceived for, as Erving Goffman informs us, “visibility, of course, is a crucial factor. That which can be told about an individual’s social identity at all times… will be of great importance” (65). Yet they are also, at the same time, both individually and socially invisible in that they are hidden behind their motorcycling clothing, thus making it hard to identify what specific individuals are like and, by retreating defensively into particularistic social enclaves, forming “a life among their own” (Seale 20) in biker venues, they are inaccessible to the general public. Consequently, this invisibility means that the public does not have access to detailed information about riders and, as such, it is easy for the media to portray bikers in socially negative ways without fear of contradiction.
This negative imagery may only be challenged if individuals have personal experience of bikers which, Goffman argues, allows “sympathy, understanding, and a realistic assessment of personal qualities” (68). However, if people do not have such personal experience, they cannot make such assessments and will rely on social stereotyping. Bikers are vulnerable in this regard as, in the complex social circumstances of contemporary society, wherein people rely increasingly on information from external sources for knowledge rather than relying on the face-to-face experience of daily life (Giddens), it becomes easier to demonise people; to rely on what Howard Becker famously called a “master status,” that provides only a crude characterisation of social actors.
By their very nature, therefore, stereotypes are crude portraits which, as Scott Lash argues, may do considerable injustice to the actual lives and identities of those people being classified (19). This type of negative stereotyping is often described as meaning that an individual or group is subject to stigmatisation, a process whereby people are defined in ways which exclude them from full social membership (Goffman 9). What enables the stigmatisation of bikers from the 1960s is that it was precisely at this time that biking was mostly associated with the working class and youths, that is, that period when motorcycling was most common amongst socially powerless groups who could not resist negative imagery (Mennell, Seidman). Such conclusions carry important ramifications that shall be addressed later; what now concerns us is how British bikers have responded to this dilemma.
Promote and Protect: Biker Responses to Stigmatisation
On an organisational level, British bikers were quick to respond to societal attack. As early as 1960, the British Motorcyclists’ Federation (BMF)—originally called the Federation of National and One-Make Motorcycle Clubs—was formed in response both to negative publicity facing motorcyclists and the need for an organisation which dealt with riders rather than with motorcycles and riding, that is, a riders’ rights organisation which would focus on motorcyclists rather than motorcycling. There was concern that “motorcycling was getting a particularly bad name from the Ace Cafe, ton-up, Rocker sensationalism that the press capitalised on” (British Motorcyclists’ Federation).
The primary concern of the BMF was, and still is, to promote a positive image of biking and protect bikers from attack both by, initially, trying to change the perceptions of the non-biking public and, more recently, acting as negotiators with all levels of British government and national bureaucracies in relation to motorcycling interests. In so doing it, however, it drew on concerns about social marginalisation that dominated the biking community. Yet this social ostracism was not merely a problem of the 1960s, but continued through until the 1990s. One rider informs us, “I’ve gone into a pub with my leathers and my fluorescent band on, crash helmet, which is just plain, nothing on it, and with friends similarly dressed, and been refused to be served. Recently.”
Consequently, British bikers feel that they have been denigrated and are the focus of social fears. Clearly, different riders respond to such treatment in a variety of ways. For some, the pleasures of riding outweigh any negative treatment they may receive. As one rider argues, “I’ve been riding for nearly twenty years and, in that time, I’ve had more enjoyment, adventure, positive receptions and good times than any of the prejudice or ignorance I’ve encountered could overshadow.” Others attempt to negate the bad image of biking by behaving in an exemplary way in public. As one rider argues, “I do try and compensate… when I’ve got the full kit on. I try and be nice to people because they don’t expect you to be polite.” For some, however, there may be feelings of injustice and indignation in the face of stigmatisation and a desire for restitution that may lead them to political activism in an attempt to “gain social legitimation for their feelings, desires, and lifestyles” (Seidman 52). One rider argues:
You can still go to pubs where they can’t discriminate against people going into a pub because of the color of their skin, but you still get signs outside them saying “no bikers.” It’s illegal to discriminate because of race, color and creed but there’s nothing to stop them discriminating because of the form of transport you decide to use at the time. I know of friends, who’ve been to a pub on their bike and been turned away, so they’ve gone home, got the car and gone back again, and been let in. I mean, that’s inherently wrong. I get very annoyed. It annoys me that people can have that attitude.
What is interesting here is that the response that such indignation calls forth is not necessarily that which one might anticipate given that bikers regard themselves as “individuals… [who aren’t] into collective things,” namely, a defensive collectivism. This is to say that, as Craig Calhoun informs us, individualistic orientations may lead to individualistic solutions to questions of self-realisation. However, among British bikers and, perhaps, owing to the post-war grounding of the community in working-class culture, feelings of solidarity based on shared experience provide the foundations for a communal collectivism. The statement from one biker shows us one way in which this type of sentiment is expressed:
Bikers are individuals but they’re part of the tribe. The big thing you notice is, a car is sat at the side of the road, it’s broken down. It’s a bloke in his mid-twenties, mid-thirties, he’s broken down at the side of the road. What’s the chances of another car stopping to help him? Pretty slim. Same bloke, motorbike broken down. What’s the chances of another motorbike stopping? Very good. That’s the difference.
Yet these beliefs also lay the foundation for a more overtly political expression of collectivism, in that feelings of societal injustice and harsh treatment were prime reasons given by the sample for explaining why they joined riders’ rights organisations; that is, their experiences of hostility led them to join organisations which would fight back on their behalf. It was this potentiality to act defensively that was to become of primary importance from the late 1980s as a new threat was to face the community.
Political and Social Change: The 1980s and 1990s
Two major changes were to face British bikers in the 1980s and 1990s. The first came from a new external source, the European Union (EU) and the second was the internal issue of the changing demographic profile of bikers which affected their ability to deal with the first.
Until this time, there had only been one particularly contentious piece of legislation, the introduction of compulsory helmet use in 1973. This legislation had resulted in a new break-away organisation from the BMF, the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG), formed specifically to fight the new law. Notable in the early political actions of MAG were the activities of Fred Hill, whose response was to characterise much of the British attitude both to biking and to legislative interference in subsequent years. Mr. Hill, a retired mathematics teacher who had served as an army dispatch rider during the war, refused to comply with the legislation and, as a consequence, was imprisoned 31 times between 1976 and 1984 when, halfway through a sixty-day sentence, he finally succumbed to a heart attack whilst in Pentonville prison. For the British Government, Mr. Hill’s non-compliance with the new law was largely a bureaucratic matter for, indeed, his prison sentences were not for failure to wear a crash helmet, but for his refusal to pay the subsequent fines imposed, which put him in contempt of court. For Mr. Hill, however, the legislation could not be separated from the broader civil rights issue that compulsory helmet use involved: the removal of the individual’s right to freedom of action. This central issue of freedom—both social and political—has underlain the successive political engagement of British bikers. In this sense, what is important about Mr. Hill is not that the fight to defeat the legislation was unsuccessful but that, through his actions, he encapsulated and symbolised the essence of the subsequent biker response to legislative interference.
In the early 1980s, the only substantive new law was that introducing a compulsory two-part test in 1981, which was generally regarded favorably by riders for improving the standard of riding. However, this was to change. The first notion British bikers had that European legislation was going to hit them was in 1987, when one issue was to call forth strong hostility from the biking community: leg protectors, a form of crash bar ostensibly designed to protect bikers from leg injuries. The matter of leg protectors was one of several topics under discussion at that time by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE). This was to serve notice that British bikers were to face restrictive legislation and alert both individuals and organisations that action would be necessary, as is attested by the following quotation:
Traditionally, we hadn’t been too concerned about what was going on in Europe because it didn’t directly affect us. But when the EC Driving License Directive was first drafted and came up… we realised that it would affect us, and that it was something that national governments would have to go along with.
The late 1980s, therefore, saw an intensification of biker activity on two levels. First, as stated above, many bikers became aware of the necessity of mounting a mass organisational response and, second, riders’-rights organisations increasingly turned their attentions to political campaigning rather than the more mundane organisation of social events which had become the main focus of their agenda. However, in 1993, matters intensified with the introduction of the Framework Type Approval Directive, also called the Motorcycle Multi-Directive, which was aimed at all aspects of motorcycle construction and performance; notably the proposed imposition of a 100bhp limit. There was a growing concern amongst British bikers that much of this legislation was explicitly anti-biking and based on a negative perception of motorcycling among non-bikers. The source for this belief can be found within the experiences of the previous three decades.
Biker history was crucial to subsequent events. As Mario Diani informs us, “social identity consists of two components, self definition and external definition” (122). Thus whilst bikers identify themselves as those riding motorcycles, there is another, more complex way in which the community “derives its sense of self from contrasting its self with others” (A. Cohen 116). In this case, owing to the exclusivity of the biking identity (Della Porta and Diani)—one is either a biker or one is not—and, consequently, the harshness of the contrast between the two categories (Hogg), British bikers had developed crucial understandings of their relationship with non-bikers during the years of marginalisation. As a consequence, when legislative threats began to come from the EU, they were located within a dichotomous and conflictual cognitive framework. Put simply, British bikers felt that they were being scapegoated by anti-biking bureaucrats and politicians who felt that bikers could safely be ignored. “I think, initially, we were perceived as a soft target—‘We can do this and we’re not going to upset that many people.’ They look at it as an acceptable damage thing. It goes back to that [perception] which classed us as social misfits.”
The upsurge in legislation quickly prompted moves towards political mobilisation. In 1988, MAG UK, along with other European national riders’ rights organisations formed the Federation of European Motorcyclists [FEM], a pan-European organization, to lobby the EU. MAG UK provided the first General Secretary and took a leading role in the European movement’s activities. In Britain, both the BMF and MAG mobilised members to demonstrate, formed letter-writing lobbies, visited local, national, and European politicians, and toured shows and rallies to inform bikers about the proposed Multi-Directive. The basis of the campaign was simple—it was framed in terms of an attack on individual freedoms and liberties to self-expression: “[It’s about] protecting a lifestyle. Protecting my freedom to do what I feel I should be allowed to do on a motorbike and, obviously, allowing others to do the same.” This is based on the belief that they are rational actors. As another man argues, “They don’t want anyone to tell them what to do. They just want to go out and do it, and want to be trusted to make decisions for their lives. Providing it doesn’t affect anyone else adversely, they just want to be left to their own devices, and they believe they can be trusted.”
Underlying this political debate, however, was an appeal to the whole ethos of riding. The intensely personal, individual experience of motorcycling provided the basis for a collective, political activism, that is, the experience of freedom in one milieu incited bikers to pursue the same elsewhere. As one rider succinctly argues, “if you’re looking for one word that sums up biker politics, or biker attitudes, it’s freedom.” Another rider explains more fully:
It’s a physical freedom that intuitively translates to a political freedom…. [But biking] won’t always be there if you get Safety Nazis in the way, and you get bureaucrats in the way, and people who sit in grey buildings and wear grey suits and live grey lives and have grey wives and write with grey pens on grey bits of paper.
Therefore, riders, when threatened by the trends of the EU to harmonise standards across Europe, were brought into direct political conflict with legislating bodies seeking to impose limitations on an individual’s freedom to express themselves through their bike.
This hostility among bikers towards EU control is crucially reflective of new social-movements’ literature which defines contemporary pressure-group activity as bound up with civil rights and autonomy. This means that whilst, superficially, riders’ rights seem primarily preoccupied with the political issue of democratic control over technology (Bauman, Modernity), such as challenging the role of experts and technocrats (Garner) and fighting encroaching political power (Touraine 143), it is also a struggle to extend equal rights into a new area (Smith). Therefore, if bikers were seeking inclusion into the political process, through integration into mainstream politics (Scott, Mayer, Garner), this was being fought to preserve individual autonomy from “overwhelming social forces” (Bocock 126). Thus, we can understand Albert Melucci et al’s comment that democracy “in complex societies requires conditions which enable individuals and social groups to affirm themselves and to be recognised for what they are or wish to be” (172). The right to ride without political interference was not merely a cultural issue concerning individual rights, therefore, for personal and cultural demands are also political demands (Scott 23); political freedom was thus about individual choice and the rights to self-realisation (Bauman, Intimations).
Consequently, it may be argued that the infringement of riders’ rights to personal autonomy were inherently involved within the whole issue of rider politicisation. Through the perception of such legislative infringements, riders were drawn into political activity, and the riders’ rights organizations into greater political activity at the European level. As one rider argues:
The regulation and restriction of options open to riders is at the root of all riders’ rights organisations. Many motorcycle organisations were formed for other reasons—sporting, touring, marque, locality etc.—but most have had to respond to, or at least have been affected by, attempts by various public authorities to regulate their activities in some way.
However, initially, the campaign against the Multi-Directive faced one critical problem not necessarily experienced by all political lobbyists: the attitudes of politicians, which needed to be fought against to win recognition that the lobby was a valid political pressure group. The lobby faced a great handicap in that it needed to counteract potentially negative assumptions among those in power from whom they required support by “playing down their differences” (Tarrow 10), that is, being reasoned, responsible and respectable. As riders have learnt, and Bert Klandermans observes, “credibility always counts” (50).
Countering any such negative attitudes therefore necessitated that activists be more thoughtful in their approach to ensure a fair hearing. As one European official argues:
A reasoned argument plays a much bigger part than it does in other political areas, in riders’ rights. I mean, you’ve actually got to convince people. You’re actually working from a handicapped position. You start off, you go along and you talk to someone about motorcycling, and you are, almost by definition, a Hells Angel or somebody who is, at best, anarchic, at worst, destructive.
To sum up, the stigmatisation of bikers was an important factor in political action for two reasons: long-term marginalisation provided the impetus for involvement, but also negative imagery needed to be countered for riders to be taken seriously as a political lobby and gain inclusion into the political process. However, the campaigns of the riders’ rights organisations were unwittingly being abetted by another crucial development among British bikers in the 1990s as biking became fashionable.
A “Gentleman’s” Pursuit: Biking in the 1990s
After a low point in the late 1980s, motorcycling has become a growth industry in the UK. Two dominant groups are responsible for this trend: the “nouveaux” and “born-again,” or returnee, bikers. Such riders have had an important impact on societal perceptions of bikers in that they tend to be older, higher-class males (and male is still the prevailing factor) for the pragmatic reasons that there are both difficulties in obtaining a motorcycle license in the UK and additional problems of the expense of vehicles, equipment and, most notably, insurance, which is proscriptive for younger people. It would appear that people are “getting into bikes as they’re getting older… [and] realise they’ve got more disposable income.” Yet this disposable income is being spent with a purpose, one which contains strongly symbolic overtones. Another rider comments that “all sorts of people, who you would never even thought would get a motorcycle are getting motorcycles. … But they ain’t buying mopeds! They still want to look the business, yeah, and they’re commuting on their BMs and their Harleys.”
What we are witnessing, therefore, is a growing respectability and accompanied social acceptance of motorcyclists as biking becomes associated with more affluent and fashionable characteristics; rather than being seen as marginalised deviants, what the motorcycling community may be experiencing is a gentrification of rebellion, danger and excitement for a mere £15,000. Rather, therefore, than being part of working-class culture, where the bike was the poor man’s car, motorcycling is now about expensive machinery and accessories, and the bike is the rich man’s toy. This new motorcycle trend is not, consequently, for everybody, but contains strongly elitist overtones. It is the new, fashionable way of indicating financial status for the young middle-aged. Put simply, bikers are becoming fashionable members of consumer society.
Consequently, biking is acquiring a new image and, alongside this development, public perception of biking is changing also as negative stereotypes are finally being broken down. Further, it would appear that the media, advertising and industry are exploiting perceived changes within the community. From these changes a new picture is emerging:
Biking is being stolen by the ad people… because suddenly biking is stylish. The style is stylish, the machines are stylish, and I think that’s coupled with the fact that people are getting fed up with traffic congestion, and they want to explore a bit of freedom for themselves. I think that’s what’s getting them into biking. [The manufacturers] stole Harley’s clothes, this marketing concept of the cruiser motorcyclist, which is always something associated with a slight rebelliousness. But what the manufacturers have done is give that rebelliousness a kind of acceptable edge. That coupled with PR and promotion of various products has meant that people can be an urban rebel but still be a respectable person.
Yet there are political ramifications of this also: the new rider positively benefits riders’ rights in that middle-aged, middle-income riders are more likely to be listened to by politicians. As such, to have born-again and nouveaux riders “in your ranks makes you stronger, it’s a real asset in that a lot of them hold responsible positions, maybe in business, in commerce or whatever, and they can affect policy.” The influx of these new riders into the community, therefore, means that the movement may be in a position to draw on the resources of such riders, (educational, professional, social attributes etc.), in furthering collective goals owing to their ability to associate with political elites (Melucci, Smith).
However, these demographic changes may be a double-edged sword in the long term. Whilst the demise of the stigma against biking would greatly benefit bikers, there is also a feeling among more experienced riders that such people may be harmful to the community. The perception of biking as merely a leisure-time, elitist pursuit may make it easier to legislate against as it may no longer be seen a viable form of transport but merely a pastime engaged in by thrill-seeking (and often accident-prone) middle-aged men trying to regain a lost youth. On a political level, concerns exist that the new riders, being less committed and aligned to the traditional community and biking generally, will not fight for their motorcycling rights but merely buy a different expensive toy should restrictions become passed into law.
Overall, however, the enhanced visibility and respectability of bikers have, thus far, been positive factors for the motorcycling community, aiding its ability to lobby effectively both with British and European politicians and in taking their case to the wider British public. By overcoming negative stereotypes and drawing on the status and expertise of new members, bikers have been able to move from marginalisation to acceptance, socially and politically.
It has been argued that British motorcycling experienced fluctuating fortunes during the twentieth century. Motorcycling is coming full circle in the UK for, having started as an elitist activity and become downwardly mobile, this position has now reversed. For much of the post-war years biking was a stigmatised and marginalised activity. Yet, in a sense, it has been this ostracism which provided the community with the one crucial quality which became necessary as legislative proposals came to threaten the individual’s right to ride: a defensive collectivism based on past experience which provided an oppositional world view enabling bikers to fight back against legislators. More positively, the defensiveness of the community was aided by the new, more respectable image that motorcycling is acquiring with its reinvention as a luxury consumer item. Together, these two factors facilitated political mobilisation against legislative threats.
Thus, to return to our original observations, we can see how, in this instance, it is impossible to separate the political activities of the British motorcycling community from its cultural foundations. The historical cultural experience of British biking fuelled political understandings of the events from the late 1980s. Therefore, one can argue that the stigmatisation of the British biker as deviant outcast should not be seen merely as a negative phenomenon, for this factor has enabled political collectivism. This Weltanschauung drew on understandings which were perhaps more cultural than political in the traditional sense of the word, and which expressed a desire to be treated like any other citizen. What they sought was inclusion in all aspects of life, cultural and political, and for an awareness that bikers are people too:
Our biggest problem at the minute is awareness of motorcycles everywhere. Awareness on the road, so we all remain alive longer, and awareness within the media, to accept us, because Britain is light years behind the rest of the world where motorcyclists are concerned, and awareness at all political levels, that we exist; not looking for special treatment, just looking for fair treatment. And awareness at European political levels, Commission and otherwise. Awareness, that is an all-encompassing thing, that will reduce prejudice. If everyone is aware of us, and accepts us. That’s our biggest problem, awareness all over.
1 Owing to a lack of either statistical or documentary data, fieldwork for this research, which was undertaken for Bikers: Culture, Politics and Power, was largely qualitative. It consisted of participation over many years, informal interviews with bikers and forty in-depth taped interviews with activists, ranging from occasional participants through local, regional, national and international officers between the ages of 21 and 72, between 1995 and 1998. A series of questionnaires were also distributed among a control group of non-activists in order to assess deviation. For further discussion of methodological issues see McDonald-Walker.
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