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An Alternative View of Peaky Blinders

A critical response to Jonathan Jackson's "By Order of the Peaky Blinders", by Craig Kelly.

Peaky Blinders Response 1200x450 - Two men in peaky caps with alcohol

Often in academia, scholars will hold opposing views on subjects. This is especially prevalent within emerging discussions. Through various platforms, be it journal articles, books or blogs, we often observes academics debating contentious subjects.

It is this nature of academic debate that pushes forth the disciplines and offers the opportunity for students to discern in a tangible manner how to critically analyse - a skill all social science students develop over their years in undergraduate (and postgraduate study). With this in mind, I write this short blog to offer a critique of Jonathan Jackson’s recent piece which sought to discuss the Peaky Blinders and challenge the notion of Deviant Leisure.

I hope to use this platform to offer a short introduction to my own interpretation of the deviant leisure perspective and how this lens could be utilised to analyse Peaky Blinders.

The main issue with Jonathan’s perspective is the misinterpretation of what is meant by the term “deviant” within this context. The classic sociological perspective of deviancy is underpinned by the notion of individuals transgressing past social norms. Within the deviant leisure perspective developed by Smith and Raymen however, the term is flipped entirely. The theoretical framework is premised upon the notion of moral degradation, within the context of late capitalism, which has normalised behaviours that would previously be termed as deviant. A prime example being the normalisation of drinking culture within the United Kingdom. Contemporary society often disavows the litany of harms perpetuated by alcohol consumption within the night time economy. Such ‘deviant’ behaviour is in actuality often commodified. It is from this perspective we can begin to see the flaws of Jonathan’s interpretation.

Whilst the blog attempts to link the themes within the show of veterans with PTSD, the political economy and various other issues it fails to assess the show within a deviant leisure framework. This is most evident within the closing discussions in which the author highlights the extent in which Peaky Blinder themed leisure businesses’ have generated for the economy in the midlands.  Within this discussion Jonathan dismisses the litany of harms such ‘tourist attractions’ proliferate - most starkly the environmental harms. In misunderstanding (or entirely negating) the zemiological (the study of harm) underpinnings of the framework it becomes impossible to engage in a discussion around how the theme of organised criminality has been repackaged and sold to the general public - a discussion Jonathan seems to premise his discussion upon at times. 

Finally, I would like to reaffirm the importance of such discussions and invite Mr Jackson to write a response in the near future. You can find a much more critical and in-depth analysis of the blog on ResearchGate.