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Comparing a counterculture's roots with today is kind of impossible. Namely due to the counterculture now becoming the culture. Recently saw a film depicting the punk counterculture in my country and it got me wondering about the status of these groups today, hippies, punks, goths, so forth. In my opinion the same thing happened to them as with all revolutions, it sort of becomes the thing it is fighting against, time and time again, history teaches this. The non-violent hippies turned into violent hooligans and so on.
It is not different with modern day rebellion as well I think. Various socio-economic reasons can be listed as to why these groups appeared. But I want to examine their future in the world. I think that today we can not say there is a legitimate counterculture that is not in tune with the regular mainstream culture. I also think people who are today in that culture really should wonder are they rebelling against the system, or did the system made them what they are and wants them as such? It really looks as control opposition if that is the case.
Well, for me a counterculture only has 3 possible fates.
1.- It disappears because it objectively does suck.
2.- It stays as a counterculture because it objectively does suck
3.- Salvageable aspects of it make it mainstream.
Well, if it disappears there is not much to talk about. If it stays as a counterculture it will just be a small group of people who at large are ignored by anyone(kinda like hippies today, most people are fine with them except when they are close enough for them to smell). If number 3 happens then it stops being a form of counterculture as it becomes mainstream.
The issue with countercultures is that their bread and butter is the fact that they are a counterculture. They thrive in the fact that they are not "mainstream" and are ultimately guided solely by their desperate attempts at creativity and not being mainstream. This makes them ultimately slaves to the actual mainstream just about as much as "mainstream" people. The difference is that while normal "mainstream" people will just do the normal things, the subculture will still act on a response to just that. Belonging to a subculture is supposed to be about bring creative, standing out, individuality and whatnot but the issue itself is that by definition no subculture itself can achieve that. Things are creative only once, the very first time. How can something be creative when it has already been done before? How can you stand out and make yourself out to be creative through a subculture which already is an identified subculture? A subculture is clearly defined, a subculture has its rules, it has things you do and you don't do, and it demands that you hang out with people of that counterculture (which is why you can smell a group of hippies a mile away, why you identify a group of punks when you see 20 kids with skateboads and mohawks and the reason you can spot a hipster a mile away just by looking at him even though he will deny being a hipster-because you can't be a hipster if you say you are one). In this regard, a subculture is exactly the same as the mainstream counterpart and the only actual difference in merely the number of people behind them. It ultimately boils down to a number of kids begging for attention.
Now, I won' deny the historical importance and influence of subcultures. The things that do make it mainstream have indeed have a great impact on society at large. My issue with countercultures is that they NEED to be a counterculture, they need to be rejected. They make a statement about something and once the statement makes it mainstream they must remain a counterculture so they end up being plain annoying. Kinda like how hipster claim to be creative and ironic without having a notion of creativity (because for the most part they are hipsters doing hipster stuff) and making a mockery out of irony by barely even making it to plain ordinary sarcasm.
The worst part is that nowadays I can't even use the word "mainstream" without sounding like one of those damn parasites (hipsters).
Well, I agree, but I also find it strange that it is very different of how such a thing can manifest itself in different cultures and countries, for example, the best way I would describe what is going on in my country is we are always late with what is going on in the west, so we try to imitate them. And since they are a mess over there, you can image how it is here. A poorer, not that developed country will lose it's ground when dealing with a counterculture.
He who controls youth, controls the future, it is a sad reality that will take over smaller countries that have not had the same historical development as the bigger ones. Now I do not mind a subculture that is grass roots, but I hate when something is pushed down the throat as you said. And as you said "mainstream" attacks "counterculture" and vice versa. You can not really "pick a side", it is better to be an individual than belong to any group I think.
Attention is a very interesting thing you point out, in the end it boils down to many things, but as the counterculture loses track of it's ideals it starts turning to what it was fighting against, if not worst.
I do agree with kkck, counter-cultures are formed based on being oppositional to the norm. That's why most stay countercultures, like how Occupy has just gone from a stance on economic inequality and corruption, to anti-police and anti-capitalistic views. People in my area dismiss Occupy now as a rogue group that cost our tax dollars for a childish rebellion. But Occupy did have some weight when it started because it did emphasize the existing economic inequality.
Countercultures can only evolve if the public has a reason to empathize. A notorious murder, a terrorist attack, a scandal can all cause a population to react in anger and support the opposing groups, who take advantage of the new publicity. It doesn't matter how real it is, as long as the public reacts. This has always been a consequence of being a social species, and we reap the consequences: good or bad.
As a speech went in an episode of YIJ:
Is the goal of a counterculture a civil war? If it gets too accepted generally by the masses, this is where I find it a threat for society. Maybe I am just looking at my own country as an example, but this scenario is not promising:
In a time of communist/capitalist transition a new "subculture" emerges, it is "made" as a reaction to the bad transformation between the two systems, denationalization of the wealth and land was done incorrectly, thus economically the country plummets. Unsatisfied youth are brought up into a hopeless system stuck between two worlds, literally a hellish purgatory. What other choice do youths have when the whole system is against them, literally it is in this situation, it will spread and go after the more sane public, it will eventually collapse into a post-apocalyptic cyber punk reality that no one wants to be part of.
It may have started in more advanced Western countries, but I think a "punk world" counterculture is best suited for the developing countries that will not reach their developed stage due to bad governance. It will be a rising "trend" as well as alternative forms of religion. Quite dystopian, I see this as a logical outcome of a counterculture gone nuts.
I am begining to think my view of what this thread was about was not quite what I thought lol. I got the impression we were talking about hipsters, hippies and whatever other things lol, it seems this is a decent bit more serious.
Taking a look at my own little third world country I have to say I am not entirely sure which groups in particular would be the mainstream and which would be the counterculture though. My own impression is that the actual majority of the people here don't even have an stand on stuff to begin with, this is key. One thing which I have seen though, which is incredibly strange to my eyes, is that there seems to be an industrial vs academics fight. On one side you got people who work at companies and industries and focus on only that. Overall philosophy and arts has little value to them since they can't make or sell anything with either(except books but book companies only end up caring about selling books, not what is in them). On the other side you got academical people. Usually thinkers, people who spend their time reading and acquiring knowledge and if ever possible teachers. Generally very deeply into philosophy and arts. The industrial side sees the other as being lazy people who do not contribute in generating value to society (which is largely influenced by the fact that they do not see value in either art or philosophy, neither will allow you to eat or pay your employees tomorrow and trying gets you sued by them). The others see the industrial as greedy ignorant shallow people who care only about money and would sell their principles and mothers for it. My own impression is that this situation is not quite seen elsewhere as you actually see people who reach a certain standing in life being something in between them, kinda like a fully functional member of society who contributes with aggregate value to society but also seeks new knowledge to ad to himself. To my eyes this particular feud is absurd at large. The worst part is that the whole thing is not rooted at the not getting each other part, the whole thing is actually fueled and sustained by either side actually not even wanting to try and see what the other side is about. On principle they reject each other.
Countercultures start off with young people rebelling against conformity by finding a conformity of their own, and sometimes non-so-young people rebelling. As time goes by they get co-opted by adults promoting politics and commercialism, and the young people move on cause its not rebellious anymore. This usually happens at the same time as what sociologists call 'moral panic' sets into the big media.
comparing hipsters to hippies or punks is plain ridiculous . thats not a countercluture to anything ,thats not even a culture ,just a group of wannabees who fail even at that .
hippies in the 70s who protested war had a real cause and how they smelled was irrelevant and punk in 80's was not about skateboards AT ALL . your examples are of those who think this is about fashion and looks , who think these are just trends
counterculture evolves and changes form as culture moves on and its not necesserly against mainstream products but the system all together . not because they beg for attention but because they refuse to be a part of an abusive system
system nowadays evolved into a market that can sell anything , peace emblem t-shirt to the so called hippie ,skateboard and spike to the so called punk , che t-shirt to the so-called communist etc
thats why the real counterculture of today is street art where people dont sell but share art . wall paintings ,graffitis ,street performances ,street concerts etc . be it pop ,rock ,punk ,funk ,rap ,hip-hop ,electonic .. classic ,neo-classic ,modern ,post-modern doesnt matter . since the so-called mainstream includes all ,so does the counterculture
I do not think counter-culture means what you all think it means. You all are describing subcultures, unique niche groups within the common, shared culture of a society. Skaters, punks, hippies, hipsters, etc. are all subcultures that have adopted unique and exclusive styles of dress, music, style, slang, and so on to differentiate themselves from the prevailing culture of society at large. Counter-cultures are political movements meant to directly challenge the standards and norms with which a society defines itself. Multiple subcultures can be part of a counter-cultural movement. For example: hippies were not a counter-culture, but a subculture within the a larger counter-cultural movement. The movement itself embraced hippies, Yippies, Black Panthers, Situationists, Communists, Anarchists, Quakers, and even "squares" fed up with the prevailing political order of the mid-60's. The dress of the hippie subculture embraced and symbolized sartorial elements of the counterculture, most famously long hair challenged prevailing notions of masculinity. The counterculture itself was an all points challenge embracing the anti-war movement, free love, drug use, fashion, and youth culture.
When the social conditions that gave rise to the counter-culture cease to exist (or change), the counter-culture often disappears or reemerges a subculture. Modern hippies are a subculture, as they are now wholly disconnected from the context that made them part of a counter-culture. There are many remaining vestiges of the 60's counter-culture in the US. Organic food markets, including Whole Foods, were a direct outgrowth of the counter-culture. The movement began as a challenge to the industrial food industry, the frozen food dinner/fast food companies/Monsanto's of the world, beginning in the late 60's, early 70's.
The only modern counter-culture identified in this thread is Occupy, as pointed out by Earthforge. They are a purely political movement that embraces multiple subcultures. It does need pointing out that the founders are Anarchists, and the movement was anti-capitalist from the start. Being orthodox anarchist the founders are unwilling to take a leadership role, so local Occupy campaigns evolve differently.
Punk is difficult to define as a counter-culture. Many of the people in the background of the movement were committed anarchists, Situationists to be specific. Sex Pistols manager Malcom Mclearen and artist Jaime Reid come to mind, as does Stiff Records artist Barney Bubbles. Most of the bands themselves were just kids, and the movement was designed to be co-opted. Punk is impossible to explain to anyone who has not read Debord or Vaneigem, so I won't even bother. Both can be read free here. Punk is simply to post-modern to define, really. And that is how they wanted it. Leave it at modern punk cultures in the US and Western Europe are not counter-cultures, unless attached to a larger movement, such as Occupy. Simply wearing punk fashion and listening to the music does not make for counter-culture, that is a sub-culture. Unless that mode of dress and music is explicitly illegal and the simple act of dressing as such can lead to harassment or arrest.
I wouldn't think a counterculture has to be purely political though. I mean, isn't the idea of a counterculture to make a statement against something? I don't think the line here necessarily has to be purely political. Granted that whatever non political would perhaps be overall be less transcendental but saying they are not a form of counterculture would be rejecting whatever point they are think they are trying to make(regardless of how unimportant it is).
I think its important here to distinguish the quasi-political-like statements offered by counterculturalists and subculturalists (and usually expressed as slogans), from genuine, well-reasoned political arguments lol. As this experienced activist author observes about OWS.
And rave in the UK is always regarded as a counterculture, what were their politics about?
I'd totally vote for rave. It makes so much sense than most political movements.
On a more serious note, I never really liked anything about OWS movement. They never had any goals, they never defended any ideals, they never... anything. To this day. The most elaborate goal they ever presented was "fighting wall street greed" and every now and then "against capitalism". That's about as specific as saying I dislike bad stuff (I am not against capitalism though, just pointing out they never really set out to do anything but to be loud). Besides, does it even make sense they would occupy wall street? Is there any reasonable expectation that people there would stop doing anything unethical because of that? Aren't lawmakers and the people to whom they should be protesting at Washington?
Well, the distinction is important but not so much as to distinguish what is and what isn't a counterculture but rather to distinguish what is actually relevant from what plainly isn't. It's the difference between hippies at their time being against war (how fun would it be to have that nowadays?) and hipsters listening to some indie band until everyone else starts listening to it.
Well, would a religion different from the state religion of some nations, that have such a thing, be considered a counterculture? Or the feminist movement? That is pretty much in the"mainstream" now though. But I think the main thing I want to touch is that a counterculture can be described differently depending on the culture, nation, region, place, that it appears as a reaction to something. Maybe in some context or some countries that signals a political counter attack, in some maybe religious, in some maybe artistic, the word "rebel" is kind of growing out of this, but I think the key is the systems of value and historical background for such a thing. Looking at it from a totally neutral and objective point of view, even though a counterculture is sort of like a"grouping" mentality, that is common in a subculture and it works it's way up to the counterculture, because subcultures are a part of it's puzzle.
Rave is absolutely not a counterculture. I don't care how much the British media made of the "Second Summer of Love", and how much lip service the scene made to Peace and Love. Rave is a youth movement, a subculture, having more in common with Mod or Northern Soul than any actual countercultures. Any politics are implicit, coded within dress and drug use, rather than an explicit cultural change agenda.
Religion can be a part of a counterculture, sometimes for shock values, sometimes to better represent the values of the movement. Buddhism and Hinduism became very popular with the Beats and later the 60's Counterculture. A lot would depend on the context. Religion is often part of a counterculture in officially atheist country, such as the People's Republic of China or Soviet Union, where any religious views are persecuted. Past religious opposition movements, such as the Albigensian Heresy or Anabaptists would have much in common with modern countercultures. All three are examples of religion being part of a broader agenda for social change. Purely religious movements, such as Luther and Calvin, probably would not be classified as counter cultural.
Feminism could be debated, whether or not it is a counterculture is a matter of debate. It certainly is a movement calling for social change, there is no doubt about that. It certainly has intendant cultural wings, with specifically feminist literature, theater, music, and cultural icons. Feminism, as it is now constituted, was an outgrowth of the 60's counterculture, becoming an independent movement in the early 70's as the Counterculture fragmented. To some degree feminism does need the anti-war movement, civil rights movement, and free love to provide proper historical context. The same can be said for Environmentalism, another political movement that is sometimes said to be a counterculture. Modern, Western identity politics is largely an outgrowth of the 60's counterculture.
Last edited by blai; September 19, 2012 at 09:01 PM.