Night time economy (NTE) has seen a boom over the past decade, the night time
leisure industry emerged as a key indicator of post-industrial urban
prosperity. Through these ‘cultural industries’ (Lovatt + O’Connor 1995) many
cities have experienced a boom, more pubs and clubs opening, normalisation of
dance and drug cultures as well as the idolisation of drink culture in general.
When the sun falls, darkness takes rule, and the previously lifeless buildings
light up revealing the after dark economy for one to loose themselves and their
problems. In the midst of the madness, Bouncers prepare to maintain order
amongst hundreds for revellers in complex working conditions. This essay aims
to explore the role of the bouncer as the ‘Urban governors’ in the chaotic
night time economy. Specifically the specialised role of the bouncer (often
overlooked) requiring a vast skill set in attempts to maintain control in a
difficult working industry, focusing on various concepts including Bourdieus
‘Habitus’ and the goffmanesque ideas of ‘face’ and ‘demeanour’ while also
looking at different contexts and gendered differences in the kinds of work.

Bouncers are often typified as aggressive and unintelligent ‘heavies’ and image
can be seen as part of their mythologisation as icons of masculinity (Calvey,
2000), Empirical research indicates that male bouncers emanate from working
class environments most likely to embrace violent conduct (Winlow, 2001). Recruits
to the profession, primarily male, bring with them cultural capital that
reflects physicality and a predisposition to utilizing the violence as a tool
and a negotiator as an integral part of social interactions. Violence then
becomes a meaningful form of action that serves to significantly contribute to
the foundations of the bouncer’s habitus. Relating back to the first sentence
it’s easy to see how bouncers are demonized by society and categorized as ‘hard
men’, because ‘hard men’ is exactly what they are, and need to be, the important
thing is how this image is maintained through Bouncers presentation of self,
which is justified by the social requirements of the job. (Hobs et al, 2003).
As well as presenting self, the powerful occupational subculture of the bouncer
places emphasis on teamwork, to generate order in the absence of rules.

Bouncers are tasked with the careful imposing of commercially, rather than
legally or morally justifiable codes. Within this ambiguous environment, it was
found (Hobbs et al 2002) ‘Bouncers had forged powerful occupational subcultures
and had developed their own informal and situational obedient practices’. This
subculture has emerged as a strategy of economic and personal survival in a
chaotic working milieu.
     Bouncers, on the one hand, are
directed by the ‘rules of house’ and adhere to the particular venues market
niche, for example rejecting those who dress inappropriately to specific
venues. However, many people that get rejected from venues are identified by
bouncers as ‘scum’ (Typically young men, violent demeanour). This
categorization works as informal typologies used to assist the selection
process. This selection process is aided by powerful occupational subcultures, local
knowledge is a vital resource as it is used for on the spot decision making. Acquiring
such knowledge requires forming relationships with other bouncers, local ‘punters’
and knowing the feuds and local dealers is essential for safety, as Calvey
(2000) explain its vital to “know the score” in terms of who controls the doors
and who has privileges. Firstly shows the there is more to bouncing than
watching a door and dealing with drunks. Linking this with Bouncers ability and
willingness to use physical force has created a system of private policing that
is reliant on competent image management necessary for maintaining social order.

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     For most bouncers, the presentation
of self (Goffman, 1959), the cultivation of an authoritatively intimidating appearance
and demeanour is of crucial importance to maintaining the status quo. As quoted
from Hobbs et al’s covert ethnography (2002) A bouncer interviewed was recorded
saying “Issues can be sorted most of the time because people don’t want to
fight someone like me?”, showing that images of  bulk and physical scarring can be powerful deterrents,
and such techniques constitute the ultimate expression of interpretive rules in
the form of pragmatic interventions learn informally within the environment.

Ethnographic insights reveal the scope of difference in the roles of the
bouncer, On one hand the choreography of violence that experienced door staff
possesses, is observed as invaluable in preventing the escalation of violence
incidents (Winlow, 2001). The Habitus of bouncer manifested in ‘door lore’
(Hobbs et al, 2002): a range of skills, competencies and working knowledge,
honed in to ‘practical morality’. A newcomer to the trade may not find learning
this expertise so easily, (Calvey, 2000) another piece of ethnographic research
in Manchesters ‘Gay village’ which views a dispute between a new bouncer
punching a ‘punter’, followed by then being thrown in to the canal by eight separate
bouncers, one of which was the punters partner, and a gang elder. Suggesting
that people new to the trade aren’t knowledgeable of certain criminal aspects
the can ascertain when trying to make a name for oneself. As well as knowing ‘door
lore’, the area and how to control such practices in a working environment. As
shown with the canal diver above its imperative to display interactional
rituals, adhering to the ‘Bouncer self’ (Calvey,200)  referring to the “constitution of a bouncers
subjectivity, self-image and identity tied up in complex ways with these social
practices that are taken for granted in door work”, Which shows how Masculinity
or the hunt for respect can be dangerous as well as extremely rewarding.

Bouncers bring with them a crude bodily capital (Waquant, 1992), they are
offering their bodies as marketable assets, yet this isn’t a process of use and
exchange value. Almost as important as the ability to carry out ones job is the
sign value of one’s body, speech and body language, facial expressions and
demeanour; they signify the danger inherent in contravening the behavioural
strictures imposed in various licensed premises. (Goffman 1967) states “good demeanour
suggests desire to maintain social order, interactions” which is interesting
when looking at the position of bouncers due to contradictory negative
demeanour required when holding the doors, but also must have the traits to
subdue any potential threats, maintain respect. The desirable qualities for a
bouncer can be undesirable for the rest of the public, which could be a factor
in maintaining the status quo.
“The real benefits of the occupation are grounded deep within masculine
working-class culture and self-identity”. With its colossal appreciation of
bodily power, personal and group respect and violent engagement, perceptions of
honour and shame are of course central to ideas of self, it is important for
bouncers to be treated with deference by the ‘punter’s’ and also the peers on
the door, fulfilling the masculine identity and on a stage where the recipients
deliberately respect the actor due to these factors. This reinforces the idea
that being a bouncer allows a demonstrative cultivation of a hyper-masculine
persona: from body language to the cut of clothes to the way they smoke their cigarettes
these men present their behaviour for display and their bodies become tools of “Impression
management” (Goffman 1969).

As well as the positive reinforcement of values and status in being a bouncer, there
can also be very heavily criminally influenced trades. Bouncer culture is a
fundamental part of club culture (Hobbs et al 2003). At Sam’s club included the
culture of bouncers that sold drugs (Sanders), about eight bouncers, including
the two head bouncers all sold Ecstasy. Clubbing is an ideal environment through
their positions of power, “control the door, control the floor” (Calvey, 2000).
The eight bouncers were considered the “inner circle” at Sams. The ‘regular’
bouncers blindly adhered to the ‘rules’ of the club, and although the ‘regular’
bouncers knew those in the inner circle were selling ecstasy and cocaine, but
‘got on’ with ‘the job’ as it provided an important source of (legitimate)
income. This brings up an important point: regardless of drug selling, all the
bouncers portrayed a sense of solidarity to the extent they ‘had each other’s’
backs’ and everyone roughly got along. Such relations are requirements of ‘the
job'(Sanders). It’s interesting to view the solidarity of bouncers through such
diversity of the job, which could reference the occupational games and
challenges required to fulfil the role.
       The image of the security guards
supplying ecstasy and cocaine in the venue was not one of the ‘pusher’, not one
of an individual tempting ‘impressionable youth’ into using ‘hard’ drugs, but
rather of a valued commodity, an important element within club land’s leisure
landscape. By providing ecstasy to many of the clubbers, the security guards
enabled them to have a ‘good time’, which may have encouraged their return.
Consequently, this would help keep Sam’s Club open for business, with punters
and those who work at the venue reciprocating in a lively drug culture and
prosperous drug economy. “In an attempt to regulate, door supervisor
registration schemes organised by city councils aimed to bring a new level of professionalism
with the job, but this has also gone hand in hand with criminalisation” (Calvey
2000) from home office research (Morris 1998) highlighted the door supervision
was subverted by organised criminal factions

While assessing how male bouncers interact with hyper-masculine tendencies and
persona, It’s also imperative to assess the evolution of the female bouncer, as
this essay has been prominently male related. Female bouncers are an indispensible
part of the culture. Women employ strategies and techniques to ‘work the doors’
and establish their position as frontline operatives. (Hobbs et al 2007) found
considerable diversity in the cultural capital of female bouncers. Significant
number of women in their study had grown up in working class environments and
like their male colleagues working class cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1997) is
central to performance in the role of bouncer. They emphasise in the study
about how their cultural heritage has equipped them with the cultural and
physical skills to deal with violence.    
Mandy, a thirty two year old of white British origin worked in a ‘tough
northern nightclub’ and extended that “Probably my upbringing that made me who
I am, As a kid If I had a fight and got bashed, I used to get sent back out
till I won” from Hobbs et al (2007) study. Other female bouncers, like Mandy,
get introduced in to the profession through friends and family; people who know
they can handle themselves. On the contrary to the pseudo masculine female
bouncer, Suzie is five for four, twenty four years of age and wears size eight
clothes, and uses verbal, non-intimidating methods to establish control and
authority. After 4 ‘punters’ come in attempting to cause trouble while Suzie is
by herself. She informs a known lady of ‘rough’ appearance to keep an eye out,
and diffuses a potential situation calmly. She refers to the bartender as a ‘slight
little thing’, although small herself. Suzie performs a ‘protective’ role and
draw upon her knowledge of the local area and its inhabitants (Hobbs et al,
2003) it also shows how important it is for bouncers to adopt these roles
showing extremely skilled work and knowledge of a particular venue and its
people. Another example names Angie was employed by the same security firm as
her husband. ‘She also emphasised that, exposure to, and participation in
violence as a young woman has provided her with important education for
managing violence in the working context’ (Hobbs et al 2007). Background
affords cultural competency, which when applied to the night time economy
security market, is transformed in to cultural capital.

 Pragmatic knowledge is a deeply embedded
aspect of working class life, a distinctive form of consciousness geared toward
embodied performance; this presupposes a permanent capacity for invention, indispensible
if one is to be able to adapt to various, un-identical situations (Bourdieu
1990). This shows the ability of female bouncers to nurture masculine habitus
that is required of players in the night time security business, as well as
this women draw on their experimental knowledge of physical violence and
violent cultures in order to work as “violent experts”. The role of the woman
bouncer is particularly interesting in how they’ve adopted various approaches
to maintaining the status quo, but background working class knowledge is
essential when formulating their role in door work. Yet for bouncer culture the
style in which violence work is performed extends beyond diffusion strategies,
towards a more instrumental form of violence management; and due to the
cultural capital of the women, the normalised stance on violence makes them
essential and for a specialised role. Operating in a masculine dominated
dominion, these women exhibit a form of practical consciousness, which includes
masculine associated aspects in relation to violence, while successfully remaining
socially coded as feminine. In the context of the NTE this social coding
suggests that emotion work (Hochschild 1983)  

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