Social capital and the Irish drug scene: Rural youth, cocaine and Irish travellers

  • Marie Claire Van Hout

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


National prevalence surveys indicate that lifetime and recreational drug use among all social classes have increased steadily over the last decade in Ireland (Moran et al., 2001a, Mayock, 2002, National Advisory Committee on Drugs, 2008a). Drugs research has been traditionally based on the identification, weighting and interrelatedness of risk and protective factors within a "risk prevention paradigm". This paradigm has been criticised for its lack of inclusion of individual, group and wider structural aspects, and occurs within a greater awareness of greater social discourse and societal shifts. The research papers in this portfolio of work are thematically analysed and conceptualised within the theoretical framework of cognitive and structural social capital. The descriptive research and later, more conceptual papers investigating drug use among rural youth, Travellers and cocaine use, are thereby explored in terms of the potential ‘normalisation of rural youth drug use’ within contemporary risk discourse, the assimilatory threat of increasing drug use among the ‘Traveller community’., and the emergence of the ‘recreational cocaine user’ in Irish society. The social processes of individualisation, reciprocity and trust which constitute social capital are deemed to provide potent collective frameworks for the navigation of risk in day to day ‘localised’ settings. The ‘interrelated normative frameworks’ and ‘processes of risk neutralisation’ are underpinned within a wider social capital understanding of the meaning of drug activity in associational life based on ‘interpersonal and institutional trust’ and ‘mutual resource acquisition’. Contemporary drug policies must consider the contextual constraints of the ‘risk society’, which impact on inherent individual ‘power resources’, whereby individual agency and drug taking is better understood within situational agency of ‘localised’ social, gender, ethnic and cultural capital.
Date of Award1 Dec 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Teesside University
SupervisorRobin Bunton (Supervisor)

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