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It is argued that subcultures define themselves in opposition to the dominant culture. In what respect is this true of youth culture, and what role does the media play in this definition?

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Introduction

It is argued that subcultures define themselves in opposition to the dominant culture. In what respect is this true of youth culture, and what role does the media play in this definition? "And these children that you spit on as they try to change their world are immune to your consultations. They're quite aware of what they're going through." David Bowie. Subcultures do not refer only to ethnic or linguistic groups within a larger society, they concern any segments of the population which are distinguishable from the rest of society by their cultural patterns. Subcultures are very broad in scope, and might include Naturalists, Goths, Hippies, Rastafarians, Mods etc. Some people might identify themselves clearly with a particular subculture, while others might move fluidly between a number of different ones. Culture plays an important role in perpetuating the values and norms of a society, yet it also offers important opportunities for creativity, change, and opposition. Subcultures and countercultures (groups which largely reject the prevailing values and norms of society) can promote views which show alternatives to the dominant culture. Social movements or groups of people sharing common lifestyles are powerful forces of change within societies, therefore those who sought to deviate from the norm, re-create the norm. The word 'culture' suggests that there is a separate entity within the larger society with which the dominant culture must contend. According to Jordaan and Jordaan in Man in Context (1984), "a subculture group is a social-cultural formation that exists as a sort of island or enclave within the larger society". One definition of subculture is: "subcultures are meaning systems, modes of expression or life styles developed by groups in subordinate structural positions in response to dominant meaning systems, and which reflect their attempt to solve structural contradictions rising from the wider societal context" (Michael Brake). The significance of subcultures for their participants is that they offer a solution to structural dislocations through the establishment of an achieved identity - the selection of certain elements of style outside of those associated with the ascribed identity offered by work, home, or school. ...read more.

Middle

Though ways to rebel may have evolved, the reasons to participate in subcultures remain a constant. "Youth identify with subcultures because they are looking for a home, looking for the thrill, the risk of being perceived as dangerous," says Beth Doll, an expert on youth development and a professor of educational psychology at the University of Colorado. Nanette Potee adds; "Young people are going through rebellion and experimentation just as previous generations did, but today's easy access to information widely expands the experiences available to contemporary kids". Such communication barriers as time and space are shattered by technology, and cultural distinctions between geographical areas become more obscure. Whichever way one looks at subcultures, it cannot be denied that the media is at the very heart. In it's rawest form, most subculture groups could be identified with a specific music genre and in some instances music was the defining characteristic around which the group was formed (such as with Ravers, Metalheads, Homeboys, Ethno-hippies, Goths, Technos, Rastas and Punks). In other communities music is a key feature, but another factor would be the key characteristic, such as with Bladers, Bikers, Skaters, Surfers, etc.). The phenomenal growth in world media accounts for the globalisation of society. The rate at which cultural objects and ideas are transmitted in large parts of the world today is a significant factor in the number of youth subculture groups that are identified. Where a society is connected to the global village through communication technology, they experience simultaneous pressures to unity and fragmentation. A major change in terms of subculture groups in recent times is that there are so many more groups around than before. When my parents' generation was growing up it was common to be classed as either a mod or a rocker. You tended to be either one or the other. Nowadays, there are so many more groups within our community that youth can align themselves with. ...read more.

Conclusion

Teachers, parents etc. encourage young people to work, job prospects are bleak, the media stresses material goods and 'fun'. Reaction to try to make sense of this has been to form subcultures such as Mods and Rockers, Punks, Skinheads etc. Marxists say that this is a way of rejecting the values of capitalism, but it is difficult to be sure exactly what does motivate young people. The reasons may not be the same as those implied by sociologists. In the 70's the post structuralists view the upper class as embracing the working class, thus motivating them and the lower class to become more affluent. Subculture emerged from this to resolve the conflict between classes. The common thread there is the resistance to dominant culture. If culture is the social production and reproduction of sense, meaning and consciousness, then the dominant culture must be the most popular culture - the culture with the power.Miller in this theory of sub-cultures thought the young working class males were not rejecting the norms of society as a whole. But they were attempting to live up to the norms of working class life. Lack of suitable role models, fatherless families' etc have left the lower classes with very different norms from the middle classes. Pete Ward (1997) commented: "In the UK I am aware that dramatic youth subcultures have all but disappeared. I have two ideas on this: A Postmodern break down in the large defined 'blocks' e.g. working class, middle class, etc. Much smaller and fluid groups with inter-relationships between social class groupings, race groupings, etc. That dramatic youth subcultures are somehow formed by cultural stress at a macro level in the economy etc. Thatcher years were marked by conflict and unemployment in the UK and the collapse of communism." A 16-year-old mod from South London said: "You'd really hate an adult to understand you. That's the only thing you've got over them - the fact that you can mystify and worry them." From: Generation X by Hamblett and Deverson, (1964). ...read more.

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