Book Review – ‘Outlaw Bikers and Ancient Warbands: Hyper-Masculinity and Cultural Continuity’

Reviewer: Dr Damien Rogers
Review published in National Security Journal, 30 May 2022

hegemonic  masculinity”  (p. 115), but he also points to specialist armed policing units and elite special forces in the military as constituting other violent groups in contemporary society, and suggests that some high-profile team sports engage in symbolic forms of combat, but without brandishing actual weapons of war. Yet Bradley’s framework will also serve as a robust basis from which to compare and contrast a range of other collectivities that use violence for nefarious ends from across multiple geographic locales, including some street gangs, organised criminal groups, belligerents in situations of armed conflict, private military companies, and terrorist groups.

In a deeply thoughtful chapter, Bradley takes aim at the reductive way in which security professionals respond to outlaw biker groups by using armed force. In one of the book’s most memorable phrases, Bradley uses the metaphor of a hammer and anvil used to crack a ball bearing in order  to  illustrate  the  problematic  approach taken by law  enforcement  officers (p. 87). If hyper-masculinity lies at the heart of groups that cohere around the use of violence to achieve strategic ends, then outlaw biker groups and the security professionals who counter them are, in this sense, two violent sides of the same hyper-masculine coin. This problematical link is especially evident when combat veterans become outlaw bikers following their experiences in wars waged by governments and their militaries.

Bradley had previously published on the significance of two-horse chariots used by Iron Age Britons in response to Julius Caeser’s invasion of 55 BC (Bradley 2009) and, with Rhys Ball, on the significance of New Zealand’s military defeat at Gallipoli and the ensuing ANZAC tradition to the development of New Zealand’s national identity (Bradley and Ball 2017). Bradley also published his research into the use of violence by outlaw biker groups and patched street gangs to further their nefarious interests in the shadow economy (Bradley 2020a), the internationalisation of outlaw biker groups (Bradley 2020b), and the challenge these groups pose to national security (Bradley 2017).

Outlaw Bikers and Ancient Warbands: Hyper-Masculinity and Cultural Continuity draws on, consolidates and advances that earlier work. It is an excellent first book. While it makes an important contribution to knowledge on outlaw bikers in its own right, the book does not pretend to offer the final word on its subject matter. Rather, like the very best scholarship, this book breaks new ground so that the work of other researchers may flourish. More specifically, Outlaw Bikers and Ancient Warbands invites other researchers in sociology and criminology, politics and international relations, history and security studies to gather further empirical evidence and assemble more case studies in order to compare and contrast the rise and spread of violent groups within contemporary society, better explaining their deeper causes and contexts, and better understanding their longer term and more profound consequences.