Many Cultural Worlds: Subcultures and Countercultures
A subculture can be defined as a set of cultural characteristics shared among a group within a society that (1) are distinct in some ways from the larger culture within which the group exists, but (2) also have some features in common with the larger culture. Some case studies can include: Hip-Hop, Computer Geeks, Dead Heads, Bikers, Ravers, Skaters, and Goths Subcultures are groups whose values and related behaviors are so distinct that they set their members off from the general culture. Each subculture is a world within the larger world of the dominant culture, and has a distinctive way of looking at life, but remains compatible with the dominant culture. • U.S. society contains thousands of subcultures, some as broad as the way of life we associate with teenagers, others as narrow as body builders or philosophers. • Ethnic groups often form subcultures with their own language, distinctive food, religious practices and other customs. A counterculture exists when a subculture adopts values and beliefs that are in opposition to those of larger society. Some examples include: Hare Krishnas, KKK, Aryan Nation, Hells’ Angels, Neo Nazi Skin Heads Countercultures are groups whose values set their members in opposition to the dominant culture. • Countercultures challenge the culture's core values. • Countercultures are usually associated with negative behavior -- heavy metal adherents who glorify Satanism, hatred, cruelty, rebellion, sexism, violence, and death, but some countercultures are not -- the Mormons would be an example of a counterculture because they challenged the core value of monogamy, and yet they were not seen as negative. RELIGIONS AND PRIMARY IDENTITY SUBCULTURES
Sociologists have defined religion as being the "ultimate reality" that people believe in, or the primary motivating factor in their lives. Not everybody who supports a particular movement or engages in a particular activity is considered an "adherent" in a socio-religious sense. Many people read science fiction or play sports, but for only a few do these activities constitute their primary source of socialization, goals, and/or philosophy. Many people support feminism in general, or many of the social ideas articulated by the feminist movement. For only a minority of people who consider themselves feminists does feminism constitute their primary philosophical system and outlet for volunteerism and social action, i.e., their religion. Religions and other primary-identity sub-cultures fill an identical sociological niche because they: 1. Provide a source of group identity, individual identity, and social interaction
2. Provide a philosophical and ethical framework, and the language through which philosophy, ethics and community issues can be discussed
3. Inspire imagination, art, literature and other creative outlets
4. Serve as a source of goals, effort, volunteerism and accomplishment for individuals and the group
5. Provide a source of unity necessary for defense of the community and the community ideals
6. Address universal experiences such as death, sexuality, family life, etc.
7. The movement or sub-culture forms the primary cultural identity for a large number of people. It fulfills a sociological niche similar to that filled by religion, tribe or ethnicity by contributing to the beliefs, philosophy, behavior, artistic expression, social interaction and goals of its adherents.
8. The sub-culture is not already included among lists of movements traditionally recognized as religions (Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, New Age, Neo-Pagan, etc.)
9. Participation in the sub-culture is voluntary, and not merely a function of non-voluntary conditions such as geography (Welsh, Mexican); ethnicity (Mayan, Black, Han Chinese); economic status ("the poor", "middle-class"); or biology (old, children, cancer patient,...
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