The main difference between subculture and counterculture is that a subculture includes a group of people who may accept the dominant culture to a certain extent but stands unique and separate from it by one or more culturally distinct characteristics, whereas counterculture includes a group of people whose beliefs, norms, and values are incompatible with the mainstream culture.
Both subcultures and countercultures share different ideas, beliefs, and values from those of the mainstream culture.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Subculture
– Definition, Features
2. What is Counterculture
– Definition, Features
3. Difference Between Subculture and Counterculture
– Comparison of Key Differences
What is a Subculture
A subculture refers to a smaller group of people who stand separate from the mainstream culture as they share slightly different beliefs, ideas, traditions, and values. Subcultures usually share a lot in common with the mainstream culture. They usually mingle with the members of the mainstream culture regularly. For instance, just imagine you are a student. Within that context, you belong to the mainstream culture of the school. You interact with the teachers and the other students. However, you can be a member of a particular subculture of a large group of friends inside the school community who share ideas and a belief system slightly different to the school culture. Moreover, the LGBT community, bodybuilders, grunge, and hip hop are some examples of popular subcultures.
Certain subcultures lead to developing their own communication styles and social norms. When you are a part of a subculture, it becomes a part of your identity as a person. But certain subcultures often face harassment and discrimination from the mainstream group. This is mainly because subcultures are frequently less well-established than the mainstream culture.
What is Counterculture
A counterculture is a group of people or a movement that holds ideas, values, and norms that are different from those of the prevailing dominant culture. Throughout history, there existed many countercultures. For example, the American women’s movement of the 1960s and 70s, where women’s liberation activists demanded equality for women and to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Another example is the free-spirited “hippies” of the 1960s who advocated against the Vietnam War, equality, and the preservation of the environment
Furthermore, countercultural movements often transition with time and ultimately becomes a representation and a part of the mainstream cultural beliefs. This happens mainly as a result of the attitudinal and behavioural transition which takes place over a period of time or as a result of law enforcement.
For instance, in the United States today, racial segregation is prohibited, and rights for equality based on race, sex, gender, etc., are protected by legislation. However, in the past, the social groups who struggled to establish these norms were considered the counterculture. But today the concept of equality for all is a principal part of the legal environment and the mainstream culture in the United States.
Difference Between Subculture and Counterculture
A subculture refers to a smaller group of people who stand separate from the mainstream culture as they share slightly different beliefs, ideas, traditions, and values. Meanwhile, a counterculture is a group of people that stands at odds with the prevailing ideas and the beliefs of the mainstream culture. Subcultures can be developed inside the dominant culture and within a counterculture.
A counterculture is always inconsistent with the ideas, beliefs and values of the mainstream culture, whereas a subculture can be consistent with the ideas of the mainstream culture to a certain extent.
LGBT community, bodybuilders, grunge, and hip hop are some examples of popular subcultures, whereas Suffragettes, Hippies, and polygamists are some examples of countercultures.
In brief, the main difference between subculture and counterculture is that a counterculture is always inconsistent with the ideas, beliefs and values of the mainstream culture, whereas a subculture can be consistent with the ideas of the mainstream culture to a certain extent. However, both subculture and counterculture are capable of existing as a culture within another culture.
1. “Culture Worlds.” Lumen – Boundless Sociology.
2. “Subculture Examples from the Past Century.” Your Dictionary.
1. “Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst (cropped)” By HastingsPress (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Dance, body, breakdance, break dance, z” (CC0) via Hippopx
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