Sociology Index -


Counterculture, Prison Subculture

Subculture is a culture-within-a-culture.  Subculture is the distinct norms, values and behavior of particular groups located within society.

The concept of subculture implies some degree of group self-sufficiency such that individuals may interact, find employment, recreation, friends and mates within the group.

Society is heterogeneous and culture is not spread out evenly. It is from here that idea of subculture and subsociety emerge.

Subcultures are linked to the deviant behavior literature and some sociologists have focused on subsociety to avoid the culture issue altogether. 

Subculture has often been treated as synonymous with the population comprising the subsociety.

Subculture has been examined without sufficient concern for delineating the groups of individuals serving as its referent. 

The subcultural system is pictured as homogeneous, static and closed. 

Subculture is depicted as consisting in its entirety of values, norms and central themes.

Cohen’s theory follows the well-known adage “my child went wrong by hanging out with the wrong crowd”. This wrong crowd is the center of Cohen’s theory; phenomena called the delinquent subculture.

A subculture is a group of people within a society that share a set of ideas and ways of doing things that differs from the ways of dominant society. The subculture gives a sense of belonging and solutions to problems.

Two factors of the delinquent subculture are (1) negativistic spite, malice, and contempt with active rule breaking (2) “short-run hedonism”, pleasure seeking with little interest in long-run goals.

Cohen felt the delinquent subculture formed in order to provide a solution to the problem of social status (or lack of status) for lower class youth imbibing lower class culture - “respect in the eyes of ones fellows” becomes very important.

M. GRAPENDAAL, Research and Documentation Centre Ministry of Justice The Netherlands 
The British Journal of Criminology 30:341-357 (1990) This article is a shortened version of the first Dutch research into the inmate subculture in Dutch prisons. The contents of this subculture are described, as is the initiation process by which new prisoners become members of the prison community. Subcultural variations are traced to certain differences in prison regimes.

Marijuana Argot As Subculture Threads - Social Constructions by Users in New York City 
Bruce D. Johnson, Flutura Bardhi, Stephen J. Sifaneck and Eloise Dunlap
National Development and Research Institutes, Inc. - British Journal of Criminology 2006
Marijuana-related argot provides socially constructed ways of talking, thinking, expressing, communicating and interacting among marijuana users and distributors. Such argot also provides the verbal threads by which the marijuana subculture integrates use practices among diverse individuals, groups and regions. An ethnographic study of blunt and marijuana users in New York City identified 180 argot words that are commonly used to maintain the subculture secrecy. Such argot constitutes the subculture threads connecting and linking diverse user groups, networks and markets. These words convey the dynamic expressiveness involved in shared consumption and as a comprehensive communication system among subculture participants. Argot terms are created and spread by subculture participants. Argot also delineates important distinctions within and helps organize how the marijuana subculture structures use practices, networks and markets. Argot maintains boundaries with other drug subcultures. The dynamic use of argot constitutes a communication system widely understood among marijuana subculture participants, yet is largely hidden from mainstream culture.

Sex Work and Drug Use in a Subculture of Violence 
Hilary L. Surratt, James A. Inciardi, Steven P. Kurtz, Marion C. Kiley, Center for Drug and Alcohol Studies, University of Delaware 
Crime & Delinquency, Vol. 50, No. 1, 43-59 (2004) 2004 SAGE Publications
Abstract: This article examines the subculture of violence thesis as it relates to female street sex workers in Miami. Interview and focus group methods were used to study the intersections of childhood trauma, drug use, and violent victimization among 325 women. Consistent relationships between historical and current victimization survey suggest that female sex workers experience a continuing cycle of violence throughout their lives.

Slang Usage in the Addict Subculture 
Paul F. Cromwell, JR., Sam Houston State University, Department of Sociology, San Antonio College Juvenile Probation Officer, Houston, Tex. 
The drug addict lives in a unique world, differing even in its language, a new jargon. Possibly nothing more clearly illustrates the fact that drug addiction has cultural components than the special communication among its members. This special argot plays an important role in the society of the drug user by pro viding in-group cohesion and communication. Crime & Delinquency, Vol. 16, No. 1, 75-78 (1970). Until the advent of large numbers of juveniles into the outer fringes of the addict subculture, little was known of this unique language except by police and persons specializing in the rehabil itation of the addict.

A Subculture of Parasuicide? 
Stephen D. Platt, Royal Edinburgh Hospital 
Human Relations, Vol. 38, No. 4, 257-297 (1985)
The purpose of this study was to devise an empirical test of the hypothesis that geographical areas with high parasuicide rates (HRAs) are characterized by a distinctive subculture which is expected to facilitate parasuicidal behavior to a considerable degree. A secondary hypothesis states that cultural differences ("cultural distance") between parasuicides and the general population will be relatively more pronounced in areas with low parasuicide rates (LRAs) than in HRAs. The HRA subculture is also significantly less understanding of parasuicide, and considers it to be more immoral and sanctionable than the dominant LRA culture.

Sports Within the Black Subculture: A Matter of Social Class or a Distinctive Subculture? 
Elmer Spreitzer, Eldon E. Snyder, Department of Sociology, Bowling Green State University,
Journal of Sport & Social Issues, Vol. 14, No. 1, 48-58 (1990)
This research compares the relative prominence of sports within the black and white subcultures. The focus is on variability among individuals in sports involvement as operationally defined by a seven- item index of passive sports participation. Based on multiple regression analysis of variance, and analysis of covariance, the greater extent of sports involvement among blacks remained evident after controlling for age, education, income, and size of city. We interpret these findings as reflective of a distinctive subculture as contrasted with a culture of poverty phenomenon as discussed by Rudman (1986) in his study of the sports mystique within the black subculture.

Fighting Back: A Test Of The Subculture Of Violence Thesis 
Ineke Haen Marshall, Vincent J. Webb, University of Nebraska-Omaha 
Criminal Justice Policy Review, Vol. 2, No. 4, 325-336 (1987) 1987 SAGE Publications
National Crime Survey (NCS) data on criminal incidents over a ten-year period (1973-1982) were used to examine the correlates of type of self-protective action taken by crime victims. The primary focus of the study is the usefulness of the subculture of violence thesis for the interpretation of victim responses to personal crime.

The Inmate Subculture in Jails 
JAMES GAROFALO, RICHARD D. CLARK, State University of New York at Albany 
Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol. 12, No. 4, 415-434 (1985)
There is a long line of prison research addressing the nature and correlates of the inmate subculture, the adherence of inmates to a set of norms that reflect opposition to institutional rules and staff. This article presents preliminary findings on variability in adherence to inmate norms among the populations of three local jails—environments that are characterized by shorter stays and more rapid inmate turnover than are prisons. The findings suggest that positive orientations toward inmate subcultural norms in jail settings are mostly attributable to experienced inmates who are already familiar with the norms when they enter the jail and who readapt to the norms after determining that they will not be gaining their freedom immediately.

Male transsexuals in the homosexual subculture - EM Levine 
Am J Psychiatry 1976; 133:1318-1321 
The author describes 20 male transsexuals who differ from most discussed in professional studies and from those in media portrayals in that they live in the male homosexual subculture. Furthermore, interviews with these individuals indicated that transsexuals are no more sexually or socially homogeneous than heterosexuals or homosexuals. In general, these men entered the homosexual subculture in their teens; they knew they were not heterosexual and therefore assumed they must be homosexual.

Opportunity, Subculture and the Economic Performance of Urban Ethnic Groups
Martin T. Katzman, This essay is the outgrowth of a study of ethnic groups undertaken with Martin Levin, University of California,
Harvard University Graduate School of Education Cambridge, Mass. 021381
American Journal of Economics and Sociology 28 (4), 351–366.
Abstract. An attempt is made to account for age-specific differences in economic performance among 14 ethnic groups living in the nation's nine largest metropolitan areas, by regression analysis of 1950 U.S. Census data. A large proportion of the variance in occupational structure, income, unemployment, and labor force status is accounted for by variations in urban opportunities, relative group size and the members' educational attainment. These residual ethnic influences as well as ethnic differences in marital, educational, and labor force status suggest that differences in ethnic subculture have important economic consequences.

Gary Alan Fine & Sherryl Kleinman: Rethinking Subculture: An Interactionist Analysis
The American Journal of Sociology, Vol 85, No 1 (July 1979), 1-20.
Abstract: Subculture, despite the term's wide usage in sociology, has not proved to be a very satisfactory explanatory concept. Several problems in previous subculture research are discussed: (1) the confusion between subculture and subsociety, (2) the lack of a meaningful referent for subcultures, (3) the homogeneity and stasis associated with the concept, and (4) the emphasis on defining subcultures in terms of values and central themes. It is argued that for the subculture construct to be of maximal usefulness it needs to be linked to processes of interaction. Subculture is re-conceptualized in terms of cultural spread occurring through an interlocking group network characterized by multiple group membership, weak ties, structural roles conducive to information spread between groups, and media diffusion. Identification with the referent group serves to motivate the potential member to adopt the artifacts, behaviors, norms, and values characteristic of the subculture. Youth subcultures are presented as illustrations of these processes operate.

Subcultures and Subsocieties.