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Heinz Kluth, "The 'Hooligans' [Halbstarke] – Legend or Reality?" (1956)

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The Contradictory Role

In the encounter with the adult world, the fragility of the young person is thus intensified rather than alleviated. It then leads almost invariably to open conflict if the supportive, integrative power of the immediate environment, especially the family, is also destroyed to the point where it is incapable of either preventing or cushioning a breakdown of the fragile condition. Thus, young people from poor family circumstances have very clearly become crucial bearers and participants in the “hooligan riots.” Here, we must not overlook the fact that we have maneuvered young people between the ages of 16 and 21, especially, into the strange dual position of being already and not yet grown, which allows a young person, in cases of conflict, to invoke the role that carries greater rights, namely that of the adult, while at the same time justifying himself to himself by adopting the role that imposes the least responsibility on him, namely that of the youth or even the child.

The role of the youth in our society is, after all, the only one that is already inherently contradictory. Today, a young person is supposed to be a child at home, an adolescent within the scope of certain laws and the demands of recreation, and for the most part an adult in the world of work and professional life. In the final analysis, however, that is an unresolvable and deeply conflict-ridden task. The working youth is subject to this dilemma to a special extent, because under the pressure of the working world, which is central to its existence, it is relatively quick to develop habits that conform to adulthood. However, if the working youth fails to find clear access to the adult world beyond work, then short-circuited action is surely not the correct response, but it is at least an understandable one. “We want to be acknowledged!” No matter how facile this statement from “instigators” during ”hooligan” riots was been intended to be, it does touch on one of the elements that make up the so-called “hooligan problem.”

Evidently, it was also precisely this element that has responded to the unfortunate media coverage of the “hooligans” in the last few months. As absurd as it would be to claim that the media created the “hooligans” in the first place, one cannot overlook the fact that breathless reporting provided the triggering element in a number of cases. That the overall situation was by no means so fragile that it had to turn into an open conflict will become evident, probably in the near future, by the fact that a large portion of the “hooligans” will disappear as suddenly as they appeared when the publicity dies down. Evidently, such phenomena occurred whenever the police supposedly solved the “hooligan problem” by “ignoring” the “hooligans.” This patent solution should therefore prove quite ineffective vis-à-vis the “real hooligans,” that is to say, where the situation itself provides no stabilizing elements.

Source: Heinz Kluth, “Die ‘Halbstarken’ – Legende oder Wirklichkeit?” [“The ‘Hooligans’ – Legend or Reality”], deutsche jugend, vol. 4 (January-February 1956), pp. 495-502.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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