Subcultures in Contemporary Society

The role of countercultures and subcultures in contemporary society is one that I believe to be of great instability. In the past theorists such as Adorno have helped us to understand the significance that the culture industry plays in society, arguing that the members of various subcultures often believe that they are resisting the
death of genuine cultural expression and experience in the age of mass culture. It is for this reason that we see these groups producing their own forms of culture – their own clothing styles, music, and cultural practices – and articulate new ways of living and behaving. (O’Brien & Szeman, 2004: 244)
At the core of this understanding is the idea that subcultural members are consciously resisting dominant codes and conventions. They rely on forms of “leisure and style as a means of making their values visible in a society saturated by the codes and symbols of the dominant culture” (Shuker, 193). Although such contributions to the discourse of subcultures is still pivotal to our understanding, it seems as though this may have been a phenomenon of the past. We have now entered an era in which countercultures seem to represent little more than self-involved aesthetic vacuums. Alternative culture has always maintained a position within capitalism, providing a “lush grazing ground for the commercial providers, ” (Hall & Whannell, 1964). However, today’s mutated countercultures take cultural products and icons reducing them in to aesthetic objects empty of meaning and value. The reality of today’s cultural environment is that counterculture has in itself become trendy, emptying it of its ability to create real social movements of any real significance. We have moved beyond capitalist appropriation to the point of disenfranchisement. In the removal of embedded value and meaning, this generation has become complacent to the point of inaction. There are no real movements through which individuals seem to have been able to mobilize around. There is no desire for ‘revolution’ or effort to create social change, as seen with past generations. The culture of today is constructed around narcissism and superficiality. This is best exemplified through the popularity of Facebook and MySpace. These sites provide users with a template through which they are encouraged to build a shrine to the self. Dedicated to preserving and creating the history or stories desired through carefully selected photos. The saturation of society with appropriated symbols has reached the extent that we are no longer able to sustain meaning or value. As noted in adbusters, it is a form of “cultural suicide”.

Posted via web from Everything Popular is Wrong

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