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subcultureany system of beliefs, values and norms which is shared and actively participated in by an appreciable minority of people within a particular culture. The relationship of the subculture to the so-called dominant culture has been identified as one of subordination and relative powerlessness. Power relations are therefore an important dimension of any sociological consideration of subculture.
Subcultures have been examined in terms of ETHNICITY, CLASS, DEVIANCE and YOUTH CULTURE. R. MERTON constructed a typology of possible responses to a dysjunction between means and goals. These responses might give rise to a number of different subcultures. S. Cohen (1971) has noted the emergence of a succession of youth subcultures in the postwar era, for example, in Britain, ‘Teds’, ‘Mods’, ‘Rockers’ and ‘Punks’. It has been suggested that such subcultures serve as ‘magical solutions’ to the problems created for young working-class people in contemporary Western societies (Brake, 1980). They serve to provide a means of establishing both individual and group identity They are discernible largely through stylistic expression, particularly language, demeanour, music, dress and dance.
Subcultures, like culture generally, are the result of collective creativity and are therefore subject to historical change and transformation. Feminist theorists such as McRobbie and Garber (1976), McRobbie (1991) have noted that gender is rarely considered in the study of subcultures. They have raised important questions concerning the relationship of young women to youth subcultures. See also CULTURAL STUDIES, CULTURAL CAPITAL, CULTURAL DEPRIVATION, CULTURAL LAG, CULTURAL (AND LINGUISTIC) RELATIVISM.