Online College Courses for Credit

3 Tutorials that teach Subculture and Counterculture
Take your pick:
Subculture and Counterculture

Subculture and Counterculture

Author: Zach Lamb

Identify characteristics and examples of subculture and counterculture in society.

See More

Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

Video Transcription

Download PDF

[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello, and welcome to Sociological Studies. As always, thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to study society. We're going to talk about subcultures and countercultures today. And I've already got behind me a list of some subcultures.

We've got dog owners, hipsters, antiques buyers and sellers, fashionistas, foodies, people who love going out to eat and trying new restaurants; Green Bay Packer fans, co-op shoppers, people who only eat organic food and shop at natural foods co-ops; and the 1%, society's elite. These are all various subgroups.

What subgroups define, really, are just specific cultural patterns of a subset of the larger population. And people belong to many different subcultures at the same time. This is really the stuff of our identities. We define ourselves by the various subcultures that we belong to. And it often helps us to build social relationships and make friends.

Think about in your own life, the subcultures that you might belong to. And think about your friends as well. Do they belong to the same subculture? How is that subculture membership implicated in your friendship? Is your friendship built on membership of this subculture? Do you always do the cultural patterns of the subculture when you hang out together?

So I don't know, if you want to have a fun exercise, make a list of all the subcultures that you think you belong to. And then, think about how they relate to your friendship.

Subcultures are, really, almost infinite in number. There are many subcultures. And each subculture will share its own set of norms, morays, and folkways, especially folkways. These are almost key to subculture membership learning these things.

So if you're going to go to a Star Trek convention, you'd better know the norms and the folkways of that particular cultural circle. Otherwise, you're going to be excluded from participation. So subculture membership then hinges upon mastering these norms, morays, and folkways of each subculture.

Closely related to this idea of subculture is that of counterculture. Countercultures are cultural patterns that oppose or run counter to the dominant culture of a society. So for example, white supremacists. They're not happy with the status quo, so they have a counterculture that's aimed at changing the status quo, albeit for the negative.

Socialists is another example. Or the 99% Occupy Wall Street Movement. Anybody who's upset with the dominant cultural logic of a society and wants to change it, these are counterculture.

Countercultures are always interacting with and negotiating with the dominant culture. And they don't always stay countercultures.

For instance, the feminist movement and the student movement and sexual revolution of the 1960s at the time was a pretty widespread organized counterculture. But now, their aims have largely been absorbed by the dominant culture and this counterculture was assimilated within the dominant culture. So now, it's not exactly right to call the ideas of feminism and the student movement in the 1960s a counterculture because they are now such a wide part of culture.

You hear things about you don't want to be on the wrong side of history. Well, that's what this means. Culture changes. Countercultures become absorbed, and maybe new countercultures are flung off. So there's a historical element to this as well.

Thank you for joining me. I hope you enjoyed the brief discussion of subculture and counterculture. Have a great rest of your day.

Terms to Know

Cultural patterns that oppose or run counter to the dominant cultural traditions of a society.


Specific cultural patterns that are practiced by a subset of a culture or society.