Subcultural theories Essay

Subcultural theories of youth civilization owe much to the pioneering work of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies ( CCCS ) during the 1970s and early 1980s. The CCCS make usage of the term “ subculture ” from US sociologists at Chicago University, and applied it to visually typical post-World War II British working category young person civilizations, such as teddy male childs, mods, and bootboyss.

Sociologists today employ three primary theoretical positions: the functionalist position, the Marxist position and the post-modernist position. These positions offer sociologists theoretical paradigms for explicating how society influences people, and frailty versa. Each position unambiguously conceptualises society, societal forces, and human behavior.


Functionalism is the oldest, and still the dominant, theoretical position in sociology and many other societal scientific disciplines. Harmonizing to the functionalist position each facet of society is mutualist and contributes to society ‘s operation as a whole. Functionalists see society as holding a construction, with cardinal establishments executing critical maps, and roles directing people in how to act. They identify the maps of each portion of the construction. For illustration, the province, or the authorities, provides instruction for the kids of the household, which in bend wages revenue enhancements on which the province depends to maintain itself running. This means that the household is dependent upon the school to assist kids turn up to hold good occupations so that they can raise and back up their ain households. In the procedure, the kids become observant, taxpaying citizens, who in bend support the province. If the procedure succeeds the parts of society green goods order, stableness and productiveness. On the other manus, if the procedure does non travel good, the parts of society so must accommodate to recapture a new order, stableness, and productiveness. For illustration, as we are soon sing, during a fiscal recession with its high rates of unemployment and rising prices, net income and salary decrease, societal plans are trimmed or cut. Families tighten their budgets while employers offer fewer concern plans, and a new societal order, stableness and productiveness occur. Functionalists believe that society is held together by societal consensus, or coherence, in which society members agree upon, and work together to accomplish, what is best for society as a whole. Emile Durkheim suggested that societal consensus takes one of two signifiers:

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  • Mechanical Solidarity: This is a signifier of societal coherence that arises when people in a society maintain similar values and beliefs and prosecute in similar types of work. Mechanical solidarity most commonly occurs in traditional, simple societies such as those in which everyone herds cowss or farms. Amish society exemplifies mechanical solidarity.
  • Organic Solidarity: This is a signifier of societal coherence that arises when people in a society are mutualist, but hold to changing values and beliefs and engage in changing types of work. Organic solidarity most commonly occurs in industrialized, complex societies such as those in big American metropoliss like New York in the 2000s.

Leading functionalists include Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons. Robert Merton ( 1910 ) , who was a functionalist as good, developed his theory of aberrance which is derived from Durkheim ‘s thought of anomy. It is cardinal in explicating how internal alterations can happen in a system. For Merton, anomy means a discontinuity between cultural ends and that accepted methods available for making them. Merton ( 1968 ) has proposed a figure of of import differentiations to avoid possible failings and clear up ambiguities in the basic functionalist position. First, he distinguishes between manifest and latent maps. Manifest maps are recognised, knowing and obvious, while latent maps are unrecognized, unwilled, and therefore non obvious. Merton used the illustration of the Hopi rain dance to demo that sometimes an person ‘s apprehension of their motivation for an action may non to the full explicate why that action continues to be performed. Sometimes actions fulfil a map of which the histrion is incognizant, and this is the latent map of an action. Second, he distinguishes between effects which are positively functional for a society, those which are dysfunctional for the society, and those which neither. Third, he besides distinguishes between degrees of society, that is, the specific societal units for which regularised forms of behavior are functional or dysfunctional. Finally, he maintains that the peculiar societal constructions which satisfy functional demands of society are non indispensable, but that structural options may be which can besides fulfill the same functional demands.

Merton expanded on the thought that anomy is the disaffection of the ego from society due to conflicting norms and involvements by depicting five different types of actions that occur when personal ends and legitimate agencies come into struggle with each other.

  • Conformity is the typical successful hardworking individual who both accepts the ends of the society and has the agencies for obtaining those ends. This is an illustration of non-anomie.
  • Invention refers to the chase of culturally approved ends by disapproved, including illegal agencies, in other words, they must utilize invention in order to accomplish cultural ends. ( Example: Drug trader who sells drugs to back up a household. )
  • Ritualism refers to overly stiff conformance to approved ends and agencies, even to the disregard of the existent consequences ; inefficient administrative officials who adhere stiffly to the regulations are the authoritative illustration of ritualism.
  • The individual who ignores and rejects the agencies and the ends of the society is said to be withdrawing from society. ( For illustration a drug nut who has stopped caring about the societal ends and chooses a drug induced world in favor of the socially recognized life style. )
  • Finally, there is a 5th type of version which is that of rebellion which refers to the rejection of sanctioned ends and agencies in favour of new 1s.

Functionalism has received unfavorable judgment as it has a conservative prejudice. Critics claim that the position justifies the position quo and complacence on the portion of society ‘s members. Functionalism does non promote people to take an active function in altering their societal environment, even when such alteration may profit them. Alternatively, functionalism sees active societal alteration as unwanted because the assorted parts of society will counterbalance of course for any jobs that may originate.


Marx argues that societies result from worlds acquiring together to bring forth nutrient. The forces of production form societal relationships. In Marxist theory, category is the most of import societal group in the capitalist society and the city manager societal constellations are category civilizations. The categories are organised depending on the manner of production that determine a concrete set of dealingss of production: the capitalists ( middle class ) and the workers ( labor ) . These categories are all the clip in struggle and dialogue because one of them is dominant and the other is low-level.

This struggle position originated chiefly out of Karl Marx ‘s Hagiographas on category battles and it presents society in a different visible radiation than do the functionalist position. While the latter position focal point on the positive facets of society that contribute to its stableness, the struggle position focuses on the negative, conflicted, and ever-changing nature of society. Unlike functionalists who defend the position quo, avoid societal alteration, and believe people cooperate to consequence societal order, struggle theoreticians challenge the position quo, promote societal alteration ( even when this means societal revolution ) , and believe rich and powerful people force societal order on the hapless and the weak. As we can see, most societies are based upon development of some groups by others. Those who own the agency of production, such as mills, land, natural stuff or capital, exploit those who work for them, who lack the agencies to bring forth things themselves. Therefore, capitalists accumulate net incomes and acquire richer and richer. Eventually workers will come to gain that they are being exoploited and will subvert capitalist economy and make a communist society. In communism the agencies of production will be communally owened, so there will be no governing category, no development and much less inequality than in capitalist economy.

Today, struggle theoreticians find societal struggle between any groups in which potency for inequality exists, such as, racial, gender, spiritual, political, economic and so on. These theoreticians note that unequal groups normally have conflicting values and dockets, doing them to vie against one another. This changeless competition between groups forms the footing for the ever-changing nature of society.

Critics of the struggle position point to its highly negative position of society. The theory ‘s ultimately cardinal jobs are:

  • it has trouble explicating the more orderly and stable elements of societal life,
  • it neglects or downplays the cultural and symbolic facets of societal life because it emphasises on economic sciences and category,
  • struggle theoreticians tend to presume the power differences lead to conflict but differences do non needfully arouse struggle.


Post modernist positions have developed since the 1980s. Some versions see of import alterations taking topographic point in society, while other versions question the ability of conventional sociology to bring forth worthwhile theories of society. Some postmodernists argue that societal behavior is no longer shaped by factors such as category, gender, ethnicity and different types of socialization. It is now merely a inquiry of lifestyle pick.

Finally, Post-Structuralism and Postmodernism, perspectives developed on the Gallic rational scene, have had considerable influence on American sociologists in recent old ages ( every bit good as on bookmans in many other Fieldss, particularly literary surveies ) . Derived from ( but mostly rejecting ) both the Marxist tradition and the plants of anthropologist Claude L & A ; eacute ; vi-Strauss — who developed a “ structuralist ” theory of civilization — these theoretical schools seek to account for the evident decomposition of modern civilization over the past several decennaries. Among the tradition ‘s major figures, such as Jacques Derrida and Jean Baudrillard, possibly the best known is Michel Foucault, a historian and philosopher. Tracing the historical alterations in social attitudes toward penalty, mental unwellness, and gender, among other subjects, he argued that cognition and power have become inextricably entwined. Foucault stressed the disciplinary nature of power, and argued that ( societal ) scientific discourse as one such subject may itself necessitate to be questioned. Sociologists in this tradition seek non merely to analyze the universe otherwise, but to do the production of sociological cognition, and therefore our ain situatedness within constructions of cognition and power, portion of the survey. American sociologists influenced by this tradition sometimes name their work Discourse Analysis or Cultural Studies.