Subculture, group of people with beliefs, attitudes, customs, and other forms of behaviour differing from those of the dominant society, while at the same time being related to it.

The concept refers to minority groups such as ethnic minorities, drug users, or even religious groups or gay communities. It has been argued that the subculture created by such groups serves to provide recompense for the fact that their members are viewed as outsiders by mainstream society. Hence a drug user with a low social status within conventional society may command great respect from other drug users because of his or her group’s individual hierarchy and values. Members of a subculture are bound closely together if they are at odds with the values and behaviour of the dominant society. Characteristics of these subcultures, such as forms of language or dress, are emphasized to create and maintain a distinction from the dominant culture. This distinction may, however, also represent a pride of identity while at the same time seeking to belong in society. Although a subculture may be a minority group, it may also emerge within a minority group—such as punk within youth; separatist feminists within feminism.

A problem with the concept of subculture is its presupposition of the existence of a concrete, mainstream culture. Many Western communities today are composed of a number of ethnic and social groups; boundaries between groupings based on class, sexuality, age, ethnicity, religion, and place of origin are increasingly blurred, and mobility between these groups is more frequent. While the concept of subculture is not flawless, the concept can be a useful tool for analysing the structure and custom of minority social groups.

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