|Subfields and other major theories|
A subculture is a group of people within a culture that differentiates itself from the parent culture to which it belongs, often maintaining some of its founding principles. Subcultures develop their own norms and values regarding cultural, political and sexual matters. Subcultures are part of society while keeping their specific characteristics intact. Examples of subcultures include hippies, goths and bikers. The concept of subcultures was developed in sociology and cultural studies.Subcultures differ from countercultures.
Culture is the social behavior and norms found in human societies. Culture is considered a central concept in anthropology, encompassing the range of phenomena that are transmitted through social learning in human societies. Cultural universals are found in all human societies; these include expressive forms like art, music, dance, ritual, religion, and technologies like tool usage, cooking, shelter, and clothing. The concept of material culture covers the physical expressions of culture, such as technology, architecture and art, whereas the immaterial aspects of culture such as principles of social organization, mythology, philosophy, literature, and science comprise the intangible cultural heritage of a society.
The goth subculture is a subculture that began in England during the early 1980s, where it developed from the audience of gothic rock, an offshoot of the post-punk genre. The name, goth subculture, derived directly from the music genre. Seminal post-punk and gothic rock artists that helped develop and shape the subculture include Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, Joy Division, and Bauhaus. The goth subculture has survived much longer than others of the same era, and has continued to diversify and spread throughout the world. Its imagery and cultural proclivities indicate influences from 19th-century Gothic literature and gothic horror films. The scene is centered on music festivals, nightclubs and organized meetings, especially in Western Europe.
A motorcycle club is a group of individuals whose primary interest and activities involve motorcycles.
While exact definitions vary, the Oxford English Dictionary defines a subculture as "a cultural group within a larger culture, often having beliefs or interests at variance with those of the larger culture."As early as 1950, David Riesman distinguished between a majority, "which passively accepted commercially provided styles and meanings, and a 'subculture' which actively sought a minority style ... and interpreted it in accordance with subversive values". In his 1979 book Subculture: The Meaning of Style , Dick Hebdige argued that a subculture is a subversion to normalcy. He wrote that subcultures can be perceived as negative due to their nature of criticism to the dominant societal standard. Hebdige argued that subcultures bring together like-minded individuals who feel neglected by societal standards and allow them to develop a sense of identity.
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is the principal historical dictionary of the English language, published by Oxford University Press. It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a comprehensive resource to scholars and academic researchers, as well as describing usage in its many variations throughout the world. The second edition, comprising 21,728 pages in 20 volumes, was published in 1989.
Belief is the state of mind in which a person thinks something to be the case regardless of empirical evidence to prove that something is the case with factual certainty. Another way of defining belief sees it as a mental representation of an attitude positively oriented towards the likelihood of something being true. In the context of Ancient Greek thought, two related concepts were identified with regards to the concept of belief: pistis and doxa. Simplified, we may say that pistis refers to "trust" and "confidence", while doxa refers to "opinion" and "acceptance". The English word "orthodoxy" derives from doxa. Jonathan Leicester suggests that belief has the purpose of guiding action rather than indicating truth.
David Riesman was a sociologist, educator, and best-selling commentator on American society.
In 1995, Sarah Thornton, drawing on Pierre Bourdieu, described "subcultural capital" as the cultural knowledge and commodities acquired by members of a subculture, raising their status and helping differentiate themselves from members of other groups.In 2007, Ken Gelder proposed to distinguish subcultures from countercultures based on the level of immersion in society. Gelder further proposed six key ways in which subcultures can be identified through their:
Sarah L. Thornton is a writer, ethnographer and sociologist of culture. Thornton has authored three books and many articles about artists, the art market, technology and design, the history of music technology, dance clubs, raves, cultural hierarchies, subcultures, and ethnographic research methods.
Pierre Félix Bourdieu was a French sociologist, anthropologist, philosopher and public intellectual.
Sociologists Gary Alan Fine and Sherryl Kleinman argued that their 1979 research showed that a subculture is a group that serves to motivate a potential member to adopt the artifacts, behaviors, norms, and values characteristic of the group.[ citation needed ]
Gary Alan Fine is an American sociologist and author.
The evolution of subcultural studies has three main steps:
The earliest subcultures studies came from the so-called Chicago School, who interpreted them as forms of deviance and delinquency. Starting with what they called Social Disorganization Theory, they claimed that subcultures emerged on one hand because of some population sectors’ lack of socialisation with the mainstream culture and, on the other, because of their adoption of alternative axiological and normative models. As Robert E. Park, Ernest Burgess and Louis Wirth suggested, by means of selection and segregation processes, there thus appear in society natural areas or moral regions where deviant models concentrate and are re-inforced; they do not accept objectives or means of action offered by the mainstream culture, proposing different ones in their place – thereby becoming, depending on circumstances, innovators, rebels or retreatists (Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin). Subcultures, however, are not only the result of alternative action strategies but also of labelling processes on the basis of which, as Howard S. Becker explains, society defines them as outsiders. As Cohen clarifies, every subculture’s style, consisting of image, demeanour and language becomes its recognition trait. And an individual’s progressive adoption of a subcultural model will furnish him/her with growing status within this context but it will often, in tandem, deprive him/her of status in the broader social context outside where a different model prevails.
Robert Ezra Park was an American urban sociologist who is considered to be one of the most influential figures in early U.S. sociology. From 1905 to 1914, Park worked with Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute. After Tuskegee, he taught at the University of Chicago from 1914 to 1933, where he played a leading role in the development of the Chicago School of sociology. Park is noted for his work in human ecology, race relations, migration, assimilation, social movements, and social disorganization.
Ernest Watson Burgess was a Canadian-American urban sociologist born in Tilbury, Ontario. He was educated at Kingfisher College in Oklahoma and continued graduate studies in sociology at the University of Chicago. In 1916, he returned to the University of Chicago, as a faculty member. Burgess was hired as an urban sociologist at the University of Chicago. Burgess also served as the 24th President of the American Sociological Association (ASA).
Louis Wirth was an American sociologist and member of the Chicago school of sociology.
In the work of John Clarke, Stuart Hall, Tony Jefferson and Brian Roberts of the Birmingham CCCS (Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies), subcultures are interpreted as forms of resistance. Society is seen as being divided into two fundamental classes, the working class and the middle class, each with its own class culture, and middle-class culture being dominant. Particularly in the working class, subcultures grow out of the presence of specific interests and affiliations around which cultural models spring up, in conflict with both their parent culture and mainstream culture. Facing a weakening of class identity, subcultures are then new forms of collective identification expressing what Cohen called symbolic resistance against the mainstream culture and developing imaginary solutions for structural problems. As Paul Willis and Dick Hebdige underline, identity and resistance are expressed through the development of a distinctive style which, by a re-signification and ‘bricolage’ operation, use cultural industry goods to communicate and express one’s own conflict. Yet the cultural industry is often capable of re-absorbing the components of such a style and once again transforming them into goods. At the same time the mass media, while they participate in building subcultures by broadcasting their images, also weaken them by depriving them of their subversive content or by spreading a stigmatized image of them.
The most recent interpretations see subcultures as forms of distinction. In an attempt to overcome the idea of subcultures as forms of deviance or resistance, they describe subcultures as collectivities which, on a cultural level, are sufficiently homogeneous internally and heterogeneous with respect to the outside world to be capable of developing, as Paul Hodkinson points out, consistent distinctiveness, identity, commitment and autonomy. Defined by Sarah Thornton as taste cultures, subcultures are endowed with elastic, porous borders, and are inserted into relationships of interaction and mingling, rather than independence and conflict, with the cultural industry and mass media, as Steve Redhead and David Muggleton emphasize. The very idea of a unique, internally homogeneous, dominant culture is explicitly criticized. Thus forms of individual involvement in subcultures are fluid and gradual, differentiated according to each actor’s investment, outside clear dichotomies. The ideas of different levels of subcultural capital (Sarah Thornton) possessed by each individual, of the supermarket of style (Ted Polhemus) and of style surfing (Martina Böse) replace that of the subculture’s insiders and outsiders – with the perspective of subcultures supplying resources for the construction of new identities going beyond strong, lasting identifications.
The study of subcultures often consists of the study of symbolism attached to clothing, music and other visible affectations by members of subcultures, and also of the ways in which these same symbols are interpreted by members of the dominant culture. Dick Hebdige writes that members of a subculture often signal their membership through a distinctive and symbolic use of style, which includes fashions, mannerisms and argot.
Subcultures can exist at all levels of organizations, highlighting the fact that there are multiple cultures or value combinations usually evident in any one organization that can complement but also compete with the overall organisational culture.In some instances, subcultures have been legislated against, and their activities regulated or curtailed. British youth subcultures had been described as a moral problem that ought to be handled by the guardians of the dominant culture within the post-war consensus.
It may be difficult to identify certain subcultures because their style (particularly clothing and music) may be adopted by mass culture for commercial purposes. Businesses often seek to capitalize on the subversive allure of subcultures in search of Cool , which remains valuable in the selling of any product.This process of cultural appropriation may often result in the death or evolution of the subculture, as its members adopt new styles that appear alien to mainstream society.
Music-based subcultures are particularly vulnerable to this process; what may be considered subcultures at one stage in their histories –such as jazz, goth, punk, hip hop and rave cultures –may represent mainstream taste within a short period. Some subcultures reject or modify the importance of style, stressing membership through the adoption of an ideology which may be much more resistant to commercial exploitation. The punk subculture's distinctive (and initially shocking) style of clothing was adopted by mass-market fashion companies once the subculture became a media interest. Dick Hebdige argues that the punk subculture shares the same "radical aesthetic practices" as Dada and surrealism:
Like Duchamp's 'ready mades' - manufactured objects which qualified as art because he chose to call them such, the most unremarkable and inappropriate items - a pin, a plastic clothes peg, a television component, a razor blade, a tampon - could be brought within the province of punk (un)fashion ... Objects borrowed from the most sordid of contexts found a place in punks' ensembles; lavatory chains were draped in graceful arcs across chests in plastic bin liners. Safety pins were taken out of their domestic 'utility' context and worn as gruesome ornaments through the cheek, ear or lip ... fragments of school uniform (white bri-nylon shirts, school ties) were symbolically defiled (the shirts covered in graffiti, or fake blood; the ties left undone) and juxtaposed against leather drains or shocking pink mohair tops.
In 1985, French sociologist Michel Maffesoli coined the term urban tribe. It gained widespread use after the publication of his Le temps des tribus: le déclin de l'individualisme dans les sociétés postmodernes (1988).Eight years later, this book was published in the United Kingdom as The Time of the Tribes: The Decline of Individualism in Mass Society.
According to Maffesoli, urban tribes are microgroups of people who share common interests in urban areas. The members of these relatively small groups tend to have similar worldviews, dress styles and behavioral patterns.Their social interactions are largely informal and emotionally laden, different from late capitalism's corporate-bourgeoisie cultures, based on dispassionate logic. Maffesoli claims that punks are a typical example of an "urban tribe".
Five years after the first English translation of Le temps des tribus, writer Ethan Watters claims to have coined the same neologism in a New York Times Magazine article. This was later expanded upon the idea in his book Urban Tribes: A Generation Redefines Friendship, Family, and Commitment. According to Watters, urban tribes are groups of never-marrieds between the ages of 25 and 45 who gather in common-interest groups and enjoy an urban lifestyle, which offers an alternative to traditional family structures.
The sexual revolution of the 1960s led to a countercultural rejection of the established sexual and gender norms, particularly in the urban areas of Europe, North and South America, Australia, and white South Africa. A more permissive social environment in these areas led to a proliferation of sexual subcultures—cultural expressions of non-normative sexuality. As with other subcultures, sexual subcultures adopted certain styles of fashion and gestures to distinguish them from the mainstream.
Homosexuals expressed themselves through the gay culture, considered the largest sexual subculture of the 20th century. With the ever-increasing acceptance of homosexuality in the early 21st century, including its expressions in fashion, music, and design, the gay culture can no longer be considered a subculture in many parts of the world, although some aspects of gay culture like leathermen, bears, and feeders are considered subcultures within the gay movement itself.The butch and femme identities or roles among some lesbians also engender their own subculture with stereotypical attire, for instance drag kings. A late 1980s development, the queer movement can be considered a subculture broadly encompassing those that reject normativity in sexual behavior, and who celebrate visibility and activism. The wider movement coincided with growing academic interests in queer studies and queer theory. Aspects of sexual subcultures can vary along other cultural lines. For instance, in the United States, down-low refers to African-American men who do not identify themselves with the gay or queer cultures, but who practice gay cruising, and adopt a specific hip-hop attire during this activity.
In a 2011 study, Brady Robards and Andy Bennett said that online identity expression has been interpreted as exhibiting subcultural qualities. However, they argue it is more in line with neotribalism than with what is often classified as subculture. Social networking websites are quickly becoming the most used form of communication and means to distribute information and news. They offer a way for people with similar backgrounds, lifestyles, professions or hobbies to connect. According to a co-founder and executive creative strategist for RE-UP, as technology becomes a "life force," subcultures become the main bone of contention for brands as networks rise through cultural mash-ups and phenomenons.Where social media is concerned, there seems to be a growing interest among media producers to use subcultures for branding. This is seen most actively on social network sites with user-generated content, such as YouTube.
Social media expert Scott Huntington cites one of the ways in which subcultures have been and can be successfully targeted to generate revenue: "It’s common to assume that subcultures aren’t a major market for most companies. Online apps for shopping, however, have made significant strides. Take Etsy, for example. It only allow vendors to sell handmade or vintage items, both of which can be considered a rather "hipster" subculture. However, retailers on the site made almost $900 million in sales."
The punk subculture includes a diverse array of ideologies, fashion, and other forms of expression, visual art, dance, literature and film. It is largely characterised by anti-establishment views and the promotion of individual freedom, and is centred on a loud, aggressive genre of rock music called punk rock. Its adherents are referred to as "punks", also spelled "punx" in the modern day.
Sexuality and gender identity-based cultures are subcultures and communities composed of people who have shared experiences, backgrounds, or interests due to common sexual or gender identities. Among the first to argue that members of sexual minorities can also constitute cultural minorities were Adolf Brand, Magnus Hirschfeld, and Leontine Sagan in Germany. These pioneers were later followed by the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis in the United States.
A counterculture is a subculture whose values and norms of behavior differ substantially from those of mainstream society, often in opposition to mainstream cultural mores. A countercultural movement expresses the ethos and aspirations of a specific population during a well-defined era. When oppositional forces reach critical mass, countercultures can trigger dramatic cultural changes. Prominent examples of countercultures in Europe and North America include Romanticism (1790–1840), Bohemianism (1850–1910), the more fragmentary counterculture of the Beat Generation (1944–1964), followed by the globalized counterculture of the 1960s (1964–1974), usually associated with the hippie subculture and the diversified punk subculture of the 1970s and 1980s.
Mod is a subculture that began in London in 1958 and spread throughout Great Britain and elsewhere, eventually influencing fashions and trends in other countries, and continues today on a smaller scale. Focused on music and fashion, the subculture has its roots in a small group of stylish London-based young men in the late 1950s who were termed modernists because they listened to modern jazz.
In the arts, bricolage is the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available, or a work created by mixed media.
In criminology, subcultural theory emerged from the work of the Chicago School on gangs and developed through the symbolic interactionism school into a set of theories arguing that certain groups or subcultures in society have values and attitudes that are conducive to crime and violence. The primary focus is on juvenile delinquency because theorists believe that if this pattern of offending can be understood and controlled, it will break the transition from teenage offender into habitual criminal. Some of the theories are functionalist assuming that criminal activity is motivated by economic needs, while others posit a social class rationale for deviance.
The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) was a research centre at the University of Birmingham, England. It was founded in 1964 by Richard Hoggart, its first director. From 1964 to 2002, the Centre played a "critical" role in developing the field of cultural studies.
Dick Hebdige is an expatriate British media theorist and sociologist, and a Professor of Art and Media Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His work is commonly associated with the study of subcultures, and its resistance against the mainstream of society. His current research interests include media topographies, desert studies, and performative criticism.
Neotribalism is a sociological concept which postulates that human beings have evolved to live in tribal society, as opposed to mass society, and thus will naturally form social networks constituting new "tribes".
A youth subculture is a youth-based subculture with distinct styles, behaviors, and interests. Youth subcultures offer participants an identity outside of that ascribed by social institutions such as family, work, home and school. Youth subcultures that show a systematic hostility to the dominant culture are sometimes described as countercultures.
Alternative fashion is fashion that, at least at one time, stood apart from mainstream commercial fashion. Alternative fashion includes the fashions of specific subcultures such as emo, scene, Goth subculture, Hip hop, Heavy metal fashion, and Cyberpunk, Lolita fashion however it is not limited to these. In general, alternative, or 'alt', fashion does not conform to widely popular style trends of the times that have widespread popularity. It may exhibit itself as a fringe style – extremely attention-grabbing and more artistic than practical – but it can also develop from anti-fashion sentiments that focus on simplistic utilitarian drives.
Party and play, party 'n' play, or chemsex is the consumption of drugs to facilitate sexual activity. Sociologically, both terms refer to a subculture of recreational drug users who engage in high-risk sexual activities under the influence of drugs within groups.
Straight edge is a subculture originated from hardcore punk whose adherents refrain from using alcohol, tobacco and other recreational drugs, in reaction to the excesses of punk subculture. For some, this extends to refraining from engaging in promiscuous sex, following a vegetarian or vegan diet or not using caffeine or prescription drugs. The term straight edge was adopted from the 1981 song "Straight Edge" by the hardcore punk band Minor Threat.
Popular culture is generally recognized by members of a society as a set of the practices, beliefs and objects that are dominant or ubiquitous in a society at a given point in time. Popular culture also encompasses the activities and feelings produced as a result of interaction with these dominant objects. Heavily influenced in modern times by mass media, this collection of ideas permeates the everyday lives of people in a given society. Therefore, popular culture has a way of influencing an individual's attitudes towards certain topics. However, there are various ways to define pop culture. Because of this, popular culture is something that can be defined in a variety of conflicting ways by different people across different contexts. It is generally viewed in contrast to other forms of culture such as folk culture, working-class culture, or high culture, and also through different theoretical perspectives such as psychoanalysis, structuralism, postmodernism, and more. The most common pop-culture categories are: entertainment, sports, news, politics, fashion/clothes, technology, and slang.
Angela McRobbie, FBA is a British cultural theorist, feminist and commentator whose work combines the study of popular culture, contemporary media practices and feminism through conceptions of a third-person reflexive gaze. She is a Professor of Communications at Goldsmiths College, University of London.
Consumer culture theory is the study of consumption choices and behaviors from a social and cultural point of view, as opposed to an economic or psychological one. It does not offer a grand unifying theory but "refers to a family of theoretical perspectives that address the dynamic relationships between consumer actions, the marketplace, and cultural meanings". Reflective of a post-modernist society, it views cultural meanings as being numerous and fragmented and hence views culture as an amalgamation of different groups and shared meanings, rather than a homogeneous construct. Consumer culture is viewed as "social arrangement in which the relations between lived culture and social resources, between meaningful ways of life and the symbolic and material resources on which they depend, are mediated through markets" and consumers as part of an interconnected system of commercially produced products and images which they use to construct their identity and orient their relationships with others.
Subculture: The Meaning of Style is a 1979 book by Dick Hebdige, focusing on Britain's postwar youth subculture styles as symbolic forms of resistance. Drawing from Marxist theorists, literary critics, French structuralists, and American sociologists, Hebdige presents a model for analyzing youth subcultures. While Hebdige argues that each subculture undergoes the same trajectory, he outlines the individual style differences of specific subcultures, such as Teddy boys, mods, rockers, skinheads, and punks. Hebdige emphasizes the historical, class, race, and socioeconomic conditions that surrounded the formation of each subculture. While Subculture: The Meaning of Style is one of the most influential books on the theory of subcultures, it faces a range of critiques.
Cultural studies is a field of theoretically, politically, and empirically engaged cultural analysis that concentrates upon the political dynamics of contemporary culture, its historical foundations, defining traits, conflicts, and contingencies. Cultural studies researchers generally investigate how cultural practices relate to wider systems of power associated with or operating through social phenomena, such as ideology, class structures, national formations, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and generation. Cultural studies views cultures not as fixed, bounded, stable, and discrete entities, but rather as constantly interacting and changing sets of practices and processes. The field of cultural studies encompasses a range of theoretical and methodological perspectives and practices. Although distinct from the discipline of cultural anthropology and the interdisciplinary field of ethnic studies, cultural studies draws upon and has contributed to each of these fields.
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