Category Archives: Subculture


We have all seen them, “gangsters” walking around with saggy pants and baggy sweatshirts known for causing trouble and committing crime, or Goth’s with gaged ears and all black attire, known for being emotionally unstable and violent. These people are said to be deviant, with norms and values that differ from those of the greater society. These subcultures create their own norms and values that others see to be different, or deviant.

Norms are an established standard of behavior maintained by a society.  Norms can be formal, informal, folkways or mores. Formal norms are those that generally have been written down and specify strict punishment if violated. Laws are an example of formal norms. Informal norms are those that are understood but not necessarily recorded. Examples of informal norms include how one behaves in a college level classroom. Folkways are norms that govern everyday behavior but do not result in much concern if violated. Wearing acceptable clothing is an example of a folkway. Lastly, mores are norms that are seen as necessary to the welfare of society, and are based on what is right and wrong. Religious doctrines are an example of mores. Defying any of these norms can result in an individual being perceived as deviant. For an individual to conform is for him or her to go along with peers, acting in a similar manner. Just as one can conform to society, that is following social norms, one can also conform to a deviant group, acting in a way that is different from the rest of society.

Perhaps the most recognized deviant groups in society are criminals. Criminals can be individuals who commit crimes such as murder or assault, or small crimes such as income tax evasion or misinterpretation of advertisement. Whether the crime was a violent crime resulting in extreme punishment, or a small senseless one with little recognition, every move we make as humans has a sanction. Sanctions are tactics used by society to penalize or reward individuals for their behavior. Negative sanctions used for criminal activity, for example, include jail or prison sentencing, fines and community service. These sanctions are largely responsible for the “good behavior” of society, as individuals stray from behavior that could result in these negative sanctions. Positive sanctions are also part of keeping society under control, so to speak. These sanctions include praise or rewards for good behavior, such as a student being on the honor roll, or getting certificates for perfect attendance. Sanctions are a means of encouraging conformity to the standards of society, while also preventing individuals from becoming deviant.

All types of sanctions are a part of social control.  “We create norms to provide social order . . . we enforce them through social control – the techniques and strategies for preventing deviant human behavior in any society” (Witt 130). Social control can be exercised in families, by parents, in colleges, by teachers, or in government by the police or legislature. One example of social control in schools is the hidden curriculum. Just as sanctions teach individuals what is socially acceptable throughout life, the hidden curriculum is used in schools to teach children what behaviors are acceptable. For example, students learn to speak only when they are called on, and are taught how to socialize with authority figures in an acceptable way. These lessons are ones that will be critical throughout life, to conform to society.

Teachers are likely to have a life-long effect on their students. Not only do teachers demonstrate socially acceptable behavior to students, but they often label students as well. Labeling can both help and hurt a child while growing up. For example, if the teacher labels a student as dishonest at a young age, that child is likely to keep that label throughout his or her education. Labeling can also be seen as a sort of stereotyping. African Americans have been labeled as delinquents, bad kids or criminals for years. Labeling a group of people as bad, in this case, puts them at a disadvantage because they are more likely to accept that label.

Norms are more important in everyday life than most people know. Without norms, we would not know how to work together, how to work individually, or how to function as an entire community. Although there are disadvantages of having norms, such as having deviant individuals, norms are an absolute necessity of society.


Works Cited

Lunchcountersitin, . “Incarceration Rate per 100,000 Residents.” Chart. Bureau of Justice Statistics (2009). Web.

Maricopa CountyJail. Web. 23 Feb. 2013. <;.

Sackermann, Joern. Germany, Gothic People. Lightstalkers, Cologne. Web. 23 Feb. 2013.

Stylephotographs, . African Student Raising her Hand in University Class. 123RF. Web. 23 Feb. 2013.

Witt, Jon. SOC. 2012th ed. N.p.: McGraw Hill, 2012. Print.



In this day and age, we live in a society where every person is expected to live up to a mainstream standards of how to dress, how to act, and even who to love. These expectations are of foremost importance to our culture and for the majority, people follow these expectations. But when you look into society there are groups that chose to live by their own set of values and norms, sometimes very similar to mainstream society,  and these groups are termed subcultures. They live in harmony with mainstream society but they choose to follow their own standards, but do not stray too far from mainstream society. When values and standards vary even more from the mainstream we find groups called countercultures, which are subcultures that deliberately go against certain aspects of the larger “mainstream” culture.

An example, that encompasses both of the terms sub and counterculture, would be a relationship group called polyamory, poly meaning “many” or “several”, and  amory meaning love. Polyamory is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved, and this aspect is what makes its practice a counter to the mainstream culture. The social norm of mainstream culture is to have a monogamist relationship based on truth and trust. Even though polyamory does go against social norms of love between a closed pair of people it still has the same values of trust and honesty, which gives the culture a more vague, but arguable, trait of being a sub to mainstream culture.

I recently learned about this term/culture from a dear friend of mine who has been living in a polyamorous relationship with their spouse for more then six months now.  They kept this a secret initially because of fear of how I would react to this information, and in all honestly, my first reaction was shock. I was shocked to find out this even existed in society. I didn’t understand how this could work or even be accepted by people, let alone an entire society. When my friend explained this life style choice to me, she stated clearly and rigidly that, “polyamory is not about sex, it is not at all like swinging. Polyamory is about having an open relationship with your spouse where you both are allowed to have a relationship with another person, and everyone involved knows one another and we’re understanding of the situation. It is about love and the overwhelming amount there is capable for people.”  My next question was to ask how far this relationship would, or could go, because legally you can only marry one person. From here my friend informed me the farthest it would go is to have all persons involved move into a house together, and live life loving each other. After I heard all the information I could, and doing my own research on  polyamory as a lifestyle, I had a few more questions. I asked my friend why they chose this life style, and they remarked, “ I feel this is what I was cut out for. It feels right to me, I have more love to share with someone other then my spouse. It also gives me a greater opportunity to be loved and love. I have known people who live this life style and when I finally understood its values and terms I realized this was the life I would like to live.”

When you relate this type of subculture/counterculture to society you find that many people are not informed about this lifestyle.  U.S.-based relationship values relating to intimate relationships are trust and loyalty, and to mainstream culture we view this lifestyle as deviant.  When my friends got married they signed a marriage license, which in most states means you are forever bonded to this person, and to commit adultery is illegal. Adultery is extremely frowned upon in our culture, it not only shows that you are disloyal to your spouse but it is also viewed as being dishonest to your fellow man.  I emphasize adultery because my friend who lives this life style chose a career that has strict rules concerning adultery. These rules never state what a punishment for adultery could be, but that you will be punished. As a result, my friend could potentially lose her entire career because of this.  Thus, one of my final questions to them was how could you live this life style knowing that one day your entire life career could come crashing to the ground, all because you and your spouse choose to live this way. My friend simply stated, “ I am willing to take the chance to live what I would consider a normal life, I am happy and strongly believe this is the right way to live. If I lose my career over this I will be hurt. But I don’t feel I should have to change my lifestyle to abide by what is expected of society.”

When I think about relationships in society today there are so many different types of love.  Our society has not come to terms yet with these new lifestyles, and at the same time new and vastly different relationships are popping up everywhere. As a society Americans are still working on accepting a homosexual lifestyles, let alone group relationships. I feel that after learning of my friends’ new way of love that society will most certainly shame them. It angers me to feel this way but that is how our society, and most any society works. We shame what we don’t understand and what is seen as counter to our mainstream. I think the solution to this situation is to be tolerant of things that are different. When we look back in history, stories just like this can be found in many different areas. This story is not about love, it is about acceptance that difference is inevitable.  Society use to shame anyone with non-white skin. But with time and awareness society overcame and did more than accept these differences; they began to celebrate them. It is not to say that there are not those who are jaded by the ideas of change to this day, but as a whole society, we can progress to be inclusive rather than exclusive. With saying this, I feel the only way this type of life style will be accepted is with time, and when society is informed and to an extent almost forced to witness these new values we can begin to embrace our differences.


Works Cited

Wikipedia contributors. “Polyamory.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 21 Feb. 2013. Web. 22 Feb. 2013.

 Witt, Jon. SOC 2012. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010. N. pag. Print.



It’s been said and understood that the socialization of a child starts as early as infancy. As the child grows up, they begin to act as their parents do when certain situations come up. Their parents and their society are their standard of normal. Within this society there are symbols. According to our textbook “SOC,” Symbols can be anything from a gesture, an object, or even a word that forms a basis of human communication (Witt).  Children can pick up on these symbols at a very early age. Children pick up on social norms and symbols by observing how their parents act, and through these observations they link meanings to actions. For example, my parents would always fold their hands when they were praying. As I grew up in a Christian church, I would do the same.

The whole idea behind Children reacting to symbols is very similar to other sociological concepts. The first major concept that a child reacting to symbols is like is socialization. Socialization, according to SOC, is the lifelong process through which people learn the attitudes, values, and behaviors appropriate for members of a particular culture. Children learning about symbols are basically part of socialization because the child has to learn about the culture, the symbol, and how the two go together. It’s all about the child learning things and applying it to how they act. It’s common when a child is so used to the symbols for the child to have culture shock when they visit other cultures. For example, a book published by the West Side Toast Masters says that holding two fingers up in America can either mean “peace” or it can signal the letter two. If you were to make the same kind gesture to someone in Greece, that person would take offense because in Greece the gesture means “up yours.” Similarly, I once hurt my middle finger and my doctor suggested that I keep it elevated. It was quite humorous to see how many people were offended because of the doctor’s orders. All of these things happen because we are trained to react a certain way to gestures, it differs from culture to culture so mixing is problematic at times.

Another issue I’d like to touch on that comes with symbols is the interpretation of religious symbols. I grew up in a very religious home so I was taught to have reverence for the cross. The cross to my family and me was a symbol of redemption and purpose. To others, it could be a symbol of family unity. And who knows what else it could mean to others. My point is that the meaning of the cross is up to the interpretation of the culture or subculture and that is passed onto children.

In conclusion, we have our own interpretation to what symbols mean even though they may be different than other cultures. Children’s interaction skills start by interacting with basic symbols that are all around them and whether they realize it or not, their perception of these symbols will stick with them for a very long time. Our perception of simple hand gestures, religious and political symbols, and even simple shapes and colors all spawned from our socialization in our preparatory stage. Our understanding of symbols will be passed onto our children and our grandchildren; it’s just how our society works.


Work Cited

Witt, Jon. SOC 2011. 2ndnd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2011. 326. Print.

“Cultural Differences.” West Side Toast Masters. N.p.. Web. 25 Feb 2013. <;.



Jon Witt defines a dominant ideology as “a set of cultural beliefs and practices that legitimates existing powerful social, economic, and political interests” (SOC 2012, 62). It is often thought of in contrast to the smaller subcultures and counter-cultures that exist within them. A dominant culture generally will be a body that assimilates the smaller cultures around it, taking in little bits of the surrounding cultures, but making the adherents of the other cultures lose their former cultural identities. It affects every aspect of human life: social issues, the economy, politics, religion, education, language, et cetera.

One can find examples of dominant cultures throughout human history. Some examples include the WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) in America, the British Empire in the 1600s-1800s, Communism in the 1900s, the “Culture of Death” talked about by Bl. Pope John Paul II, Jim Crow and Segregation in the American South, the Roman Empire in Europe and North Africa from 100 BC to 400 AD, and the “Dictatorship of Relativism” talked about by Pope Benedict XVI. All of these examples, while they have major differences (some are cultural trends, some are groups within a society, others are the societies themselves), are good examples of a dominant culture.

Alexander the Great

One example I would like to look more in depth at is the Hellenizing cultures of the Seleucid Kingdom (one of the nations that split from Alexander the Great’s Kingdom after his death.) Hellenization (a reference to Homer’s character in The Iliad: Helen of Troy) is the name given to the cultural diffusion that would take place whenever Alexander’s armies would take over a new country. It would happen in two primary ways: the Greek armies would adopt some of the local customs (exs: Alexander became King of Persia and Pharaoh of Egypt [instead of just simply saying these places were part of the Kingdom of Macedon], foreign deities were added to the Greek Pantheon [not the building, but a general term for their religious system], and the religious/cultural texts of the various peoples taken over were translated into Greek and collected at Alexandria [like the Jewish Scriptures being collected in the Septuagint]) and the peoples that were taken over were also expected to take on different aspects of Greek culture (adopting the Greek gods as their own, learning Greek language and philosophy, using Greek currency [drachmas, denarii, et cetera], having deference to Alexander in varying degrees, among other things.) Most took to the change pretty well, but Helenization effected different peoples differently.

After the death of Alexander, his Kingdom (which stretched from Italy to India) was split up by his generals in a civil war, in the end leaving four Greek Kingdoms. The Seleucid (centered in Syria) Kingdom is especially interesting. Sitting right on the border of the Seleucids and the Ptolemys was a small area called Palestine. This was one of the smaller areas that Alexander had allowed to retain a certain degree of cultural identity (not requiring them to adopt Greek religion, being partially governed by their priesthood). Because this area was on the border of the two nations, it was often fought over by them and changed hands a lot (cf. Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews 11.8-13.16).

The inhabitants of Palestine were mainly Abrahamic Monotheists who followed the Torah (Law) of Moses. There were Samaritans to the North (Samaria) and Jews to the South (Judaea) and the East (Galilee). To generalize, the Samaritans had been more assimilating than the Jews (some even accepting a looser form of Monotheism which believed the God of Israel was the God, while the gods of other nations were lesser gods), and the Jews held more steadfastly to their ancestral beliefs (strict Monotheism, keeping certain dietary laws). Though there were more moderate forms of diffusion that retained cultural traditions yet also learned from Greek culture (like the author of the Old Testament Book of Wisdom, the sage Yeshua ben Sira, the philosopher Philo, et cetera); some even leaving Palestine for other parts of the Greek Kingdoms.

Antiochus IV

Because of the various subcultures found in the area, when Antiochus IV (Epiphanes “[God] manifested”, “called Epimanes, ‘madman,’ by his enemies” [note on 2 Maccabees 4:7 in NOAB]), a Seleucid King, came to power in the area he pushed for Hellenization to be hurried up (for greater unity/social cohesion in the kingdom). He encouraged people to worship the Greek gods, and reject their ancestral traditions. The Samaritan Temple was rededicated to Zeus Hellenius and the Jewish Temple rededicated to Zeus Olympius (Antiquities 12.5). Antiochus also established a gymnasium in the city of Jerusalem and required the breaking of the Jewish Dietary Laws (Antiquities 12.6). The Bible records it like this, “Then the king [Antiochus] wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that all should give up their particular customs…whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die” (1 Maccabees 1:41-42,50 NRSV). Because of the varying levels of diffusion and accepting of Greek culture among Palestinians, there were a couple of different reactions to this. Samaritans and more Hellenized Jews tended to support such moves. Jews more faithful to their way of life ended up doing one of two things: they were either martyred for not following the King’s orders or they violently fought against it. One can see from an account of the martyrdom of Eleazar the priest, that pressure to conform to Hellenization came not just from the Greeks, but often from their Jewish country men (“Eleazar, one of the scribes in high position, a man now advanced in age and of noble presence, was being forced to open his mouth to eat swine’s flesh [considered unclean in Judaism]…Those who were in charge of that unlawful sacrifice took the man aside because of their long acquaintancewith him, and privately urged him…to pretend that he was eating the flesh of the sacrificial meal that had been commanded by the king, so that by doing this he might be saved from death, and be treated kindly on account of his old friendship with them” [2 Maccabees 6:18,21-22 NRSV]). In the examples of Eleazar and of Mattathias (the original leader of the Hasmonean/Maccabean Revolt), one can also see that the government authorities often would go to the elders of the community first, to try to help lead the rest of the people to follow suit, but often these elders would end up becoming examples for the people to be deviant in response to the king’s demands. (cf. 1 Maccabees 1:15-28, 2 Maccabees 6:18-31, Antiquities 12.5-6). Both martyrdom and the military responses clearly exemplify what we mean by a counter-culture that rebels against the dominant ideology of the time. Eventually the rebellion was successful and took back Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple (the root of the feast of Hanukkah), and established the Hasmonean line of kings/priests (cf. 1 Maccabees 4, 9-16).

As Sociologists and Historians today, we constantly must look back on Dominant Ideologies of the past, and then take a look at our culture, and pick out the similarities and differences, to try to avoid the inevitable (or at least become aware of whatever we find.)

Works Cited

Josephus, Flavius. JOSEPHUS: The Complete Works. Trans. Whiston, William. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible. Ed. Michael Coogan. New York: Oxford UP, 2001. Print. New Revised Standard Version.

Witt, Jon. SOC 2012. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011. Print.


With the United States being a very diverse country, we still have a unified culture. Culture is the learned and shared ways of believing and doing with a society. It provides us skills, habits, and styles which are passed from generation to generation. As a complex society, we have many subcultures in the U.S., which are segments of the larger culture. They have their own beliefs and values which they carry from their own cultures. Conversely, many subcultural groups also participate and engage in the behaviors of the dominant culture. As we know, language is part of culture.  It has an impact on subcultural groups within a larger society who struggle to keep their language. For instance, many Somali children, when they move to the U.S, end up speaking American English more fluently than the language of their culture simply because the U.S  culture surrounds them most of the time. Not only does the dominant culture influence on language, but it also dominates subcultural values, mores, and folkways.

Although there is a huge immigrant population in this country, I would say when it comes resocializing, some immigrants can adapt easily.  Resocialization, the process of leaving old behavior behind and accepting the new life changes they’re undergoing is easy for some, while others, like refugees, take time to go through this process.  This is simply because some immigrants may come into this country for different reason: education, business, or vacation. These kinds of immigrants tend to experience fewer traumas compared to refugees who are vulnerable, having undergone rigorous situations in their countries.  My mom, for example, after living three years in Lansing, is still having trouble transforming herself and taking on some of the behaviors of the U.S..  Language is an issue for her. Even though she has transformed by adhering to some of the norms and values of this country, she wouldn’t have even followed these without being told by her children to do so. The language barrier has kept her from getting a job since English is the only language used in the larger society. This problem has explicitly resulted from the lack of resocialization and driver’s license.  Addition, she is not able to go to a doctor’s appointment without an interpreter. By accepting new transitions and social relationships, resocialization changes individuals from their old behaviors and way of life to the new patterns.



Another problem associated with subcultures is ethnocentrism.  Ethnocentrism can lead to bad things for many different reasons. It often puts down a certain group or culture. Subcultural groups can feel ethnocentric when they have to learn the language of the bigger society. In addition, following their norms and values has been prioritized. Ethnocentrism also leads a group to thinking they are righteous and better than other groups.  This happens at my workplace when working with some employees from the dominant culture. I had small talk one day with one of my coworker and come up with one of the norms of culture to compare with another from the large culture. I felt he implicitly preferred the norms of that subculture. Sometimes ethnocentrism does not have a negative impact, rather it has advantages. For instance, it can create patriotism. Even though we consist of different societies with different beliefs, values, norms, and knowledge, we still have common norms, values and symbols that bring us together.  For instance, the flag symbolizes unity and shows love of the country and obedience to the rules and regulations. The flag encourages people to be patriotic for the country whether an individual is from the dominant culture or subculture.


SOC1“That’s so gay”. “Don’t be gay”. “No homo”. “What a fag”. All of these remarks can be heard almost daily. It is socially unacceptable or undesirable to be gay. A stigma is a label used to devalue members of certain social groups (Witt). Whether or not these remarks are directed at a gay person, it fuels the stigma against homosexuals and homosexuality.

My mom and dad got divorced in 1997 and my mom came out as a lesbian. Since then she has gotten married (legally in the state of New York) to her partner of 12 years, Lara. I have seen and experienced first hand the discrimination gay and lesbians experience due to the stigma homosexuality has.

Society puts us under immense amounts of pressure not to veer off from the norms.  In order to avoid the stigma many people live their whole lives in the closet, afraid of what might happen if they come out. They will be seen as deviant and will experience negative sanctions for their decision to come out as homosexual. Many people are bullied, beaten, and even murdered or driven to suicide because their sexual orientation violates the mores society dictates everyone should live by.

There is group superiority that extreme homophobic people have, such as Focus On The Family, One Million Moms, and the American Family Association. These groups feel as though being gay is deviant and shouldn’t be shown on television, supported legally, or given any civil rights. These people see being homosexual as taboo.

The family structure in American is changing. There is no longer the ideal husband, wife, 2.5 kids, and dog. There are families with adopted children, single parent households, guardians, and families with gay parents. As a child of a lesbian I had my own experiences with the stigma attached to having a gay parent. People assume that the child of a gay parent will become gay themselves. There is this theory that being gay is somehow contagious or a choice.

When traveling to Italy last summer I was in a bit of culture shock when I realized that being gay was more accepted than it is in America. My mom and Lara could walk around holding hands without being stared at. Though as we have seen with each election people are becoming more and more accepting with many states making gay marriage legal. When my mom and Lara got married in New York there was a celebration of love and acceptance. They were finally able to legally declare their love, just as heterosexual couples have always been able to.

Homosexuals have become their own subculture. Since they have been discriminated against and cast as the out group, they have band together. They have their own bars, clubs, vacation spots, and even argot. “Let’s have a kiki”, “spill the tea”, and “throwing shade” all started as “gay lingo” then started spreading to the mainstream media.

There has been a push by the government, media, and people throughout America to take the stigma out of being gay. This will take time and might never happen, but through elections, television shows, music, and people supporting one another the stigma has decreased little by little over time.