Culture and Identity 11: Define subculture, folk culture, high culture and mass culture and give examples (20 marks)Subculture: Subcultures form in larger societies that don’t all share the same beliefs and general way of life. A subculture is a group within a society that has different beliefs, values, norms or way of life, but can also have directly opposing beliefs. This is known as a subculture of resistance. Some examples of regular subcultures are youth, criminal and gay subcultures, which are different from dominant culture but still share ideas and beliefs.
On the other hand, an example of a subculture of resistance is an anti-school subculture, as observed by Willis (1977) in working class boys.Folk Culture: Folk cultures are formed by people in local communities and it is based on customs, beliefs and experiences of the daily life of people. It normally involves many people participating together. It tends to be associated with pre-industrialized societies, however it can still be found nowadays amongst enthusiasts.
Some examples of folk culture include storytelling, folk music and folk dancing.High culture: High culture is a culture that is generally aimed at elites of society in upper and sometimes middle classes. It is a culture with an artistic value that is deemed superior to other means of culture. It is seen as special and thus circles around places such as museums and convent halls, with some examples of high culture products being opera, classical music, established and classic literature such as Shakespeare, visual art such as the works of Van Gogh and also documentaries.Mass Culture: Mass culture, also called low or popular culture, is a culture which is manufactured commercially and aimed at the masses. It greatly involves sale of cultural products that do not require much thought and analysis and are generally short-lived in order to appeal to as many people as possible. It does not encourage participation, as folk culture does, but rather it encourages mindless consumption. Some examples of mass culture are tabloids, popular music, websites such as Facebook and even reality shows. This mass culture is always around us and it is difficult to find someone who has not heard of certain pop singers or reality stars.2:Discuss the main sociological arguments regarding mass/popular culture (20 marks)Mass culture is often seen as possessing lesser value as it deflects people away from doing more useful activities, for affecting mass audiences negatively and also for bring down standards of culture. Frank and Queenie Leavis in the 1930’s-1960’s wrote about mass culture with scorn, describing it as processed and mindless, and less important when compared with high culture. They viewed mass culture to be spoiling language, encouraging conformity and greed whilst also exploiting people’s specific needs and fears. Marxists such as Bourdieu wrote that high culture is perceived to be better in comparison to mass culture as the dominant class enforces its own ideas of what it thinks is worthwhile and better. The remainder of society are then forced into accepting the dominance of high culture yet they still regularly take part in mass culture. Some Marxists accept the inferiority of mass culture as they see it as being mass produced for a profit, and people are manipulated via the media into wanting such products. Yet another critic of mass culture was MacDonald (1965) who saw no use for mass culture, unlike folk and high culture.These critics of mass culture regard it as a form of social control used to encourage the ideological hegemony in society. Marcuse (2002) said that mass culture generated from the media encouraged people to be less critical of the world and described it as a form of social repression that promotes conformity. On the other hand, Strinati (1995) thinks differently in the fact that he perceives mass culture as useful and said that it should be studied. In fact, he believes that there is a vast choice for people to be found within mass culture, which people can select and respond to. Mass culture can also be seen as beneficial. Soap operas, for example, were seen as valuable to society by their writers and producers, Livingstone (1988) discovered. This is because they saw the TV soap operas as educational when it comes to teaching controversial issues in society. For example, soap operas like Coronation Street or EastEnders have started conversations and debates about issues which may otherwise not have been discussed if not in stereotypes. These TV shows have sparked conversations about homophobia, bisexuality, homelessness, racism and domestic violence, amongst many others. Many people who actually enjoy mass culture suggest that its critics are simply snobs who look down on less dominant cultures.3. Explain how globalisation is affecting contemporary culture.Globalisation, although has many benefits, has one distinct problem; it is slowly eroding away at local and national cultures. A new global culture is emerging and more and more people are sharing the same norms, values, and ways of life. This is the case through the ease of traveling to different cultures, the internet which allows for instant communication and also international division of labour. Flew (2002) says that new media technologies are behind the development of such a global mass culture. Televisions and the internet, as well as the digitisation of cultural arts have led to a global marketplace for mass culture. This recently founded digital universe is breaking down barriers between low and high cultures, but also between cultures from different countries and societies. This media based life is leading to an increasingly large number of people worldwide who share and view the same cultural products and can form their identities around different cultures. Ritzer (2013) makes a point using food franchises as an example. These franchises now have stores worldwide, which encourage a global mass culture but also discourage local cultures from developing. For example, one can buy a hamburger practically everywhere, as traditional diets die out as people are opting for globalised food instead . Companies and their logos can be recognized worldwide because of the large role of the media, and TV shows and video games are reproduced worldwide instead of coming up with original ideas. This global media based culture has also led to many celebrities emerging from the UK and the USA, whilst encouraging English, that is now a second language for most of the world. This idea of people acting so similar all over the world is known as cultural hegemonization and is when separate cultures merge together into one uniform culture.
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