Sample Essay on Subcultures



Subcultures have been mainly described as communal groupings that are prearranged around common concerns and beliefs. The phrase subcultures has been utilized to position particular social groupings and the study of such groupings, as it relates to various wider social formations distinguished by phrases, such as “community”, the “public”, “groupings” as well as “culture”. In every society in the world, there is the manner in which things are done that is normally regarded as the norm. This traverses different spheres of life and is reflected in their belief systems, foods, music and general customs, which all boil down to be referred to as their customs. When these are carried on over time, they come to define a specific group and can be correctly inferred as their cultural way. In this way, culture connotes a way of civilization that is associated with refinement so that when one is considered cultured, in the context of their society they are considered to conform to certain behaviors, intellectual capabilities and is able to carry and express themselves in an agreeable manner. As quoted in Hebdige (2012), Williams identifies culture in anthropological terms as a: “A specific way of living that articulates certain implications and values in art, learning, as well as institutions and common conduct. The analysis of culture, from such a definition, is the clarification of the meanings and values implicit and explicit in a particular way of life, a particular culture” (Hebdige, 2012).

Culture following the foregoing identification thereby is considered to be based on a standard of being that is adopted by a said community or society. It will be acknowledged though for one reason or another, there will be individuals or persons that will have a problem adhering to societal demands and identity and as a result will deviate from the norm. When they come together and have an identity of their own, a new phenomenon is formed. It is from these individuals that a novel way or that which is considered deviant a subculture is formed. When a group arises in the midst of this dominant society, and it has its way of operations that is different from the cultural way of life, then it can be summed up as a subculture.


A society will always have a variety of distinct groups within itself, and every one of these groups will most likely have their own characteristic way of doing things. In addition, they are most likely to be directed by a distinct way of thinking that allows for the group to interact. These civilizations within a society are known as subcultures. As stated by Borna, Stearns & Dheeraj (2007), subculture is normally used to define a group within a larger culture that shares one or more of the following. Value norms, patterns of behaviors, beliefs, common experience, cultural meanings for affective and cognitive responses, environmental factors, the importance placed on motivational domains, combination of social situations that form a functional unity, assumptions, means of symbolic expression, shared commitment to a product class, brand, or consumption activity, material artifacts, form of living, ethnicity, or some other demographic characteristic. It can therefore be linked or inferred that the aspect of a group being called a subculture or for it to be identified as such has to be as a result of a group existing within a larger group, in this case the larger culture. Further, they have to be coming together around a particular theme upon which, there is a shared common meaning between those who belong to the subculture. The way a subculture is understood within a culture has to include a characteristic that is not shared with the general population otherwise it would not be a subculture. It can accordingly be pointed out that this difference might be either negative or positive as compared or as viewed by the larger society. The logical finding of the broader inferences of the values of antisocial subcultures during the 1960s, further described subcultures as normative. For instance, in 1961, David Matza and Gresham utilized the idea of subterranean principles, to evaluate the general response concerning the youth subcultures as antisocial. The two discovered that the subterranean principles entrenched in these subcultures served to support instead of undermining the puritan principles of production. To be more specific, the highlighting on daring and exploration, the denial of the ordinary set of work, the taste for lavishness and prominent consumption, and the admiration for manhood, illustrated through force, were comparable to the manly leisure principles of the middle-class as hypothesized by Thorstein. Their identification of principles entrenched in subcultures revealed an attempt to recognize the advancement of the middle as well as the higher classes at the time subsequent to the Second World War. One element of this development, for instance, comprised of a significant historical change during the early 1960s: the leisure principles of free enterprise began moving out of the shadow of the work ethic of free enterprise to take a productive turn.

The analysis of subcultures normally consists of the analysis of symbolism that are linked to dressing, music as well as other noticeable affections by associates of subcultures, in addition to the ways by which these symbols are understood by associates of the main culture. As said by Dick Hebdige, associates belonging to a common subculture normally show proof of their membership through a unique and symbolic utilization of style, including fashion, gesticulation as well as slang. Subcultures normally exist at various levels of institutions, stressing on the fact that there are numerous culture combinations mostly evident in any one institution that complements and also contends with the general institutional culture. In a number of cases, subcultures have been debated on and functionalities synchronized. Early stages subcultures have been defined as a moral issue that is supposed to be addressed by the elders of a society during the post war accord. Associates of the main culture identified the British adolescents during the post war times as agitators. It may be hard to characterize particular subcultures, for the reason that their ways of living in terms of clothing and music, may be taken on by group culture for commercial reasons. Businesses normally wish to emphasize on the dissident appeal of subcultures, seeking for cool, which remains significant in the advertising of any product. This procedure of cultural appropriation normally causes demise or development of the subculture, as its associates take on novel styles that seem unfamiliar to the typical society.

The phrase subculture normally describes relatively temporary groupings that are studied apart from their families as well as domestic or private set ups, stressing on voluntary, informal as well as organic associations that are made either in the free unrestricted space of the street, or alternatively within the disciplinary composition of the implemented institutionalization. Subcultures are mainly groupings that are meant to diverge from the normative standards of the main culture, as it is variously described according to age, gender and taste in terms of economy, race and gender. Subcultures are normally regarded in terms of the social status as disenfranchised, subsidiary, subaltern or subterranean. The researchers who examine subcultures are normally described as oppositional. The existing facts about subcultures are intrinsic part of the introduction of neo-liberalism. As opposed to the typical way of getting to know about popular culture through the examination of particular values of subcultures in terms of the background, subcultures have also been investigated in other ways. For instance, through a genealogical assessment to find out how their studies have contributed to the introduction of the way of thinking that talks about neo-liberal agency of a person under particular historical status of capitalism. Subcultures not only express way of life but also describe a personalized way of how one conducts his/her life. The final aspect of a subculture highlights an important form of behavior under two significant elements of the neo-liberal chronological state.

Aspects of Subculture

It has been established that the way subculture is referred to have had significant changes that cannot be overlooked. Early theories of subculture described communities that developed strong interpersonal bonds, ritualized modes of expression, and beliefs that precluded other social affiliations in order to subvert dominant institutions, such as family, schooling, and class politics (Thomas, Schau & Price, 2011). The way subculture is used especially in the social sciences can be identified through two ways. First, to identify a demographic group that has no particular influence on its own formation and second, to refer to a group that has decided to rebel from the dominant culture as a way of expression.

Borna, Stearns & Dheeraj (2007) has identified that there is a preference to use the term subculture to point to the normative systems of groups to give emphasis to the ways these groups differ in such aspects as language, values, religious beliefs, diet, and style of life from the dominant society of which they are a part. Based on this clarification, racial groupings (Hispanics, Asians) or spiritual groupings (Jews, Muslims) are subcultures. The next use of the word alludes to groups whose customs come up from a seeming frustrating circumstances or from conflict between the group and larger society. To have a grasp of this use of the term subculture, it becomes necessary for the group to surface whose, “members’ norms are a mixture of counter values (as opposed to those of the dominant culture) and normative values of the group”, say Borna, Stearns & Dheeraj (2007).

Anybody interested in the subcultures will need to be careful about these distinctions and explanation (Borna, Stearns & Dheeraj, 2007). This should be the case as there has been the misguided tendency to have the term being applied for any possible demographic variation in the society with little or no attempt to study its exact meaning, its value, or its efficacy, asserts Borna, Stearns & Dheeraj (2007). This position is supported by O’Connor (2004) who makes the case of caution when it is pointed out that the emphasis on “subculture” can be misleading in a different way. It tends to illustrate the experience and activities as a whole. As O’Connor (2004) says, “this, from time to time describes the homology of the subculture: the ways in which style constitutes coherent lifestyle”.

There are those that are driven by the need to be identified as being radical or want to be identified as a subculture to make a stand or pass on a message probably laced with political views. As it has been identified, some groups prefer to be labeled as a tribe or a subculture, possibly owing to the politics involved; being a subculture is more subversive and positions one against the mainstream (Thomas, Schau & Price, 2011). A good example can be adopted from O’Connor (2004) who identifies how the workings of the dominant culture drive a particular group towards some subcultures. O’Connor (2004) makes case for “youth who are not able to perform in accordance to the societal standards, and are unable to perform well in school or get first-class jobs, and establish subcultures. These as a result have particular roles and standards that these youth can accomplish. The idea was that youth who do not perform well in school establish their own little groupings, in which they can attain status through being smokers, being rough or taking part in petty criminal offense. This essentially goes past the youth. Black individuals disqualified from first-class jobs in straight civilization could possibly be successful in their own ways through a “deviant” occupation as jazz musicians” (O’Connor, 2004).

Subcultures everywhere

Since cultures abound where human beings are found, it can be deduced that subcultures will be found globally. The extent of subcultures can be illustrated in the background of the main culture. In this case, it is apparent that there is also a culture that can traverses a region as small as a village and even the globe in as far as there is a common shared system of beliefs and values. Consequently, then subcultures can exist within villages and globally too. From such a background, it can be said there are local cultures with local subcultures and global cultures with global subcultures. O’Connor (2004) has it that the so called “cultural globalization,” is relatively a recent phenomenon and in spite of much talk about it, it is becoming clear to serious researchers that there are significant differences among subcultures in different countries and involves social life of some kind or another. However, this varies enormously between countries, with differences in each social structure, culture and education system (O’Connor, 2004)


Subcultures arise as a result of a part of the group in culture finding ways, customs, belief systems and things that they share and they have in common. It can be as a result of identity or just common interest. Either way, for every cultural way of life, there will always suffice subcultures. It can be on a minor scale covering just a small geographic area or it can traverse entire nations or regions including the globe itself. Wherever subcultures occur, it is another form of cultural expression seeking a voice.



Borna, S., Stearns, J. M., & Dheeraj, S. (2007). Subculture: A Bargain Concept In Marketing Education. Journal for Advancement of Marketing Education, 1135-43.

Hebdige, D. (2012). Subculture: the meaning of style. Routledge.

O’Connor, A. (2004). The Sociology of Youth Subcultures. Peace Review, 16(4), 409-414. doi:10.1080/1040265042000318626

Thomas, T. C., Schau, H., & Price, L. (2011). Collecting the Collectives: Brand Communities, Subcultures of Consumption, and Tribes. Advances in Consumer Research, 39. 271-275.