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7.2: Cultures and subcultures

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    According to many sociologists, the dominant culture of a society is the one exemplified by the most powerful group in the society. Taking the United States as an example, Andersen, Taylor and Logio (2015: 36-37) suggest that while it is hard to isolate a dominant culture, there seems to be a “widely acknowledged ‘American’ culture,” epitomized by “middle class values, habits, and economic resources, strongly influenced by . . . television, the fashion industry, and Anglo-European traditions,” and readily thought of as “including diverse elements such as fast food, Christmas shopping, and professional sports.” Philosopher and cultural theorist Kwame Appiah (1994: 116) is more pointed, emphasizing America’s historically Christian beginnings, its Englishness in terms both of language and traditions, and the mark left on it by the dominant classes, including government, business, and cultural elites.

    In contrast to the dominant culture of a society, say sociologists, are the various subcultures, conceived as groups that are part of the dominant culture but that differ from it in important ways. Many sociology textbooks are quick to propose race and ethnicity as important bases for the formation of subcultures. Other commonly mentioned bases include geographic region, occupation, social or economic class, and religion (Dowd & Dowd, 2003: 25). Although this way of thinking about the connections between culture and groups has now fallen somewhat out of favor among cultural theorists, it is still common in basic sociology texts. Therefore, we will outline it here along with the caveat that there is an alternative way of looking at group membership, one grounded in the concept of identity rather than of culture.

    This page titled 7.2: Cultures and subcultures is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Nolan Weil (Rebus Community) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

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