Subculture is a
culture-within-a-culture; the distinct norms, values and behaviour 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 ideas of subcultures and subsocieties emerge.
Subcultures are linked to the deviance literature and
some sociologists have focused on subsociety to avoid the culture issue altogether.
They go through each of the four problems referenced:
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
Subculture is depicted as consisting in its entirety of
values, norms and central themes.
Cohens theory follows the well-known adage my
child went wrong by hanging out with the wrong crowd. This wrong crowd is the center
of Cohens 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 status (or lack of status) for lower class youth - respect in the eyes of ones
fellows becomes very important.
THE INMATE SUBCULTURE IN DUTCH PRISONS
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. The conclusion is that, to achieve a general explanation of the
phenomena observed, one needs an approach integrating two theoretical models: the
deprivation model and the importation model. For practical purposes, however, the
deprivation model is of more importance.
Marijuana Argot As Subculture Threads - Social Constructions by Users in New
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.
Using targeted sampling, crack- and heroin-using sex workers were recruited through street
outreach into an HIV-prevention research program. Interviews used standard instrumentation
and focused on drug-related and sexual risk for HIV, sex work, violence, childhood trauma,
and health status. Nearly half of the respondents reported physical (44.9%) and/ or sexual
(50.5%) abuse as children, and over 40% experienced violence from clients in the prior
year: 24.9% were beaten, 12.9% were raped, and 13.8% were threatened with weapons.
Consistent relationships between historical and current victimization suggest that female
sex workers experience a continuing cycle of violence throughout their lives. The policy
and research implications of these findings are discussed.
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. The juveniles picked
up much of the slang and put it into popular usage. Through the facilities of the
police departments of large cities throughout the United States, a glossary of current
slang usage was compiled and is included in this article.
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. Data were gathered on four separate
samples in Edinburgh: two groups of parasuicides, one from an HRA, the other from three
LRAs, and two groups of population controls matched pairwise with each parasuicide by sex,
age, and area of residence. Four instruments, of which three were specially designed for
the study, were used to test middle-order hypotheses relating to specific elements of the
cultural system. These instruments are fully described. Empirical evidence undoubtedly
supports the prediction of a meaning system in the HRA which is distinctive from that
found in the LRA. However, not all differences are in the expected direction. Although
there is evidence of greater toleration in the HRA of deviant behavior in general,
parasuicide is equally proscribed in the two areas and is given the most extreme rating of
19 conduct norms in the HRA. The HRA subculture is also significantly less understanding
of parasuicide, and considers it to be more immoral and sanctionable than the dominant LRA
Sports Within the Black Subculture: A Matter of Social Class or a Distinctive
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. The data
derive from a national probability survey conducted by Research Forecasting Incorporated
for the Miller Brewing Company. 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
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 jailsenvironments 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
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. As their gender identity
crystallized, homosexual activity became repugnant and they rejected and were rejected by
male homosexuals. Being unable to attract heterosexual men, they sought bisexual partners
in a futile effort to confirm their identity as females. The author suggests that in
addition to efforts to help transsexuals shift their gender identity, psychiatrists should
emphasize prevention of this psychopathologic symptom.
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), 351366.
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. With the specified economic factors held constant, ethnic
factorsnationality and nativityare associated with residual differences in
economic performance. 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
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