In today’s social structure, it is almost everyone’s goal to “fit in”. However it is becoming less rare to have large groups of people choosing to not fit into the dominant group. As a result of people’s different interests, beliefs, and goals there are a variety of different groups that people typically identify with such as sports fans, the party crowd, computer nerds, academic nerds, preps, video gamers, and even hipsters. Individuals tend to choose a group and conform to their values and norms. Norms are considered an established standard of behavior maintained by a society, where values are a collective conception of what is considered good, desirable, and proper or the opposite like bad, undesirable, and improper in a culture(Witt,57,59). The mass majority of people’s cultural beliefs and practices along with values and norms help create the dominant ideology(Witt,62). This mainstream ideology legitimates existing powerful social, economic, and political interests. However in the United states we have a difficult time identifying a singular and inclusive dominant core culture. We have a lot of cultural variation between the subgroups in our society because many people are not able to connect or agree with dominant ideology. Sometimes members of our society completely oppose almost every single value and norm of the mainstream group, and this is where countercultural groups find their members, from the outcasts or objectors of the dominant ideology.
Subcultures are an ethnic, regional, economic, or social group exhibiting characteristic patterns of behavior sufficient to distinguish it from others within an embracing culture or society (Subculture,1). These subgroups within a culture typically share some values and norms with the dominant ideology. Subcultures are closely similar to countercultures, however countercultures deliberately opposes certain aspects of the core culture (Witt, 65). It can be very challenging to distinguish a group as a subculture or a counterculture, I personally decide the difference based on if they coexist with the dominant culture or not. If the group coexists peacefully with the dominant culture I would consider the group a subculture and if the group does not want to be involved with the dominant culture I would them consider the group a counterculture. People of countercultures often fight to affect some kind of essential change to mainstream culture. Some clear and obvious examples within the last century include feminists, hippies, and punk movements. They all tested the dominate culture to break down previous norms and values that the countercultures did not agree with.
A very small counterculture arising in my hometown is a group that is refereed to as “The furries”. In a larger, more commonly known group they would be considered Therians. A therian is a member of a contemporary subculture of therianthropy, which is based upon a spiritual or psychological identification and relationship with animals and sometimes they believe themselves to be actual animals trapped inside a human body. The furries all believe themselves to literally be wolves. Therians normally try to follow the animal interactions, such as the furries creating a hierarchy of order, such as ‘Alpha Wolves’ and also howling at the moon. They also believe in openness about their sexuality, their animal instincts, and as a cause are normally very sexual in general. The furries typically refuse to talk to other people outside their culture group, and disobey authority figures every chance possible and this is why I would consider them a counterculture.
The subculture I think everyone notices taking over currently is the hipster culture. There is even a television series based on this subculture called Portlandia, centered in Portland, Oregon, the Hipster Capitol. Hipster refers to a subculture of young, recently settled urban middle class adults and older teenagers that appeared in the 1990s. The subculture is associated with independent music, a varied non-mainstream, fashion sensibility, liberal or independent political views, alternative spirituality or atheism or agnosticism, and alternative lifestyles (hipster,1). Hipsters mesh well in most cases with the dominant group because they follow music and fashion trends. The group has become so accepted that lots of their adopted trends are extremely popular and readily available in retail stores. Because they coexist with and accept some dominant ideology’s norms and values, I would consider them a subculture.
The problems we are faced with as a result of countercultures in our society is a lack of harmony between groups and extreme forms of countercultures can be dangerous to society. The dominant ideology needs to be accepting of being disagreed with, because it is only natural to have a few people with opposing view points. When there is a counterculture of people who want to create tension between themselves and the dominate group it creates a negative atmosphere. The only solution to get rid of the tension between the two culture groups is to agree to disagree and be tolerant of one another. Extreme forms of counterculture in the past include groups such as the Klu Klux Klan. This counterculture was derived from hate ideologies and made the group extremely toxic to society. It is important for the government to keep restrictions on these dangerous counterculture groups to keep society safe.
There is no possible way to rid our society of countercultures, nor should we all wish for that. Countercultures provide us with a variety of types of people and scenes to explore and find new aspects of ourselves within them. Everyone is different, some more then others and that should be okay.
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“Hipster (contemporary subculture) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hipster_(contemporary_subculture)>.
“Subculture – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary.” Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster Online. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2013. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/subculture>.
Witt, Jon. SOC. 2012 ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 20122011. Print.