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Subculture and Counterculture

Subculture and Counterculture

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This lesson will explore and discuss subculture and counterculture.

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Tutorial

What's Covered

This tutorial will cover the following topics of sociology, through the definition and discussion of:

  1. Subcultures
  2. Countercultures

1. SUBCULTURES

What do the following groups of people all have in common?

  • Dog owners
  • Hipsters
  • Antiques buyers and sellers
  • Fashionistas
  • Foodies
  • Green Bay Packers fans
  • Co-op shoppers
  • The 1% (society’s elite)

They are all subcultures. These subgroups define specific cultural patterns of a subset of the larger population. People belong to many different subcultures at the same time, and this forms the basis of their identities. People define themselves by the various subcultures that they belong to, which helps them to build social relationships and make friends.

Term to Know

Subculture

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

Brainstorm

Make a list of all the subcultures that you think you and your friends belong to, then think about how they relate to your friendship. Do you belong to the same subculture as your friends? How is that subculture membership implicated in your friendship? Is your friendship built on membership of this subculture? Do you always enact the cultural patterns of the subculture when you hang out together?

Subcultures are almost infinite in number. There are many subcultures, and each subculture shares its own set of norms, mores, and folkways--especially folkways. Learning these folkways are key to subculture membership.

Think About It

If you are attending a Star Trek convention, how important is it for you to know the norms and the folkways of that particular cultural circle? Pretty important, otherwise you're going to be excluded from participation.

Big Idea

Subculture membership hinges upon mastering the norms, mores, and folkways of each subculture.


2. COUNTERCULTURE

Closely related to the idea of subculture is that of counterculture. Countercultures are cultural patterns that oppose or run counter to the dominant culture of a society.

ExampleWhite supremacists oppose or run counter to the dominant culture of a society. They are not satisfied with the status quo, so they have a counterculture that's aimed at changing the status quo, albeit for the negative. Other examples of countercultures include socialists, or the ‘99% Occupy Wall Street’ movement--basically anyone who's upset with the dominant cultural logic of a society and wants to change it.

Term to Know

Counterculture

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

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

IN CONTEXT

The student-led feminist movement and sexual revolution of the 1960s was considered to be a fairly widespread organized counterculture at the time, but now their aims have been largely absorbed by the dominant culture. This counterculture was assimilated within the dominant culture, so today it's not exactly accurate to call the ideas of 1960’s feminism a counterculture-- they are now an accepted, wide part of culture.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You don't want to be on the wrong side of history?” This is referring to the assimilation of a counterculture within the dominant culture in a historical context. Throughout history, culture changes--old countercultures become absorbed, and new countercultures are created.

Summary

Today you learned about subcultures and countercultures.

Good luck!

Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Zach Lamb.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Counterculture

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

  • Subculture

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