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To the average layman, the term ‘counterculture’ might seem to sound like something that is abrupt, disruptive, and maybe even intrusive – as if it were a term coined to explained the ‘going against’ of a certain societal concept. However, just like any well-oiled machine, counterculture not all negative, and is essential to the healthy development of the society as a whole be it to challenge existing norms, or to bring about an awareness to a certain issue that has been buried under the mainstream.
Counterculture is a radical form of subculture. Countercultures are movements that are supposed to inspire social changes for the worse or for the better. Where countercultures’ main purpose is to oppose their dominant cultures, subcultures, in nature, are not at odds with them. A subculture may have their own tenets.
Examples of a subcultures would be the Goths and Emos (Emotional Hardcore). They both stem from the same main culture which would be the punk rock music culture. However, where they differ would be in terms of their habits and practices. With regards to their musical preferences, Emos have stuck to their roots whilst the Goths have deviated towards electronica music. Personalities wise, they are both usually affiliated with moods associated with the unpleasant the aspects of life like depression and darkness. The key difference between the two subcultures would be their fashion sense. For Goths, it would be head-to-toe black while the Emos would still be willing to wear coloured apparels if it floats their boat. To sum it up, while the Goths and the Emos have varying beliefs, practices and habits, they are not at contrast to their main culture which would be the punk rock music culture. They would be able to carve an identity for themselves within the culture.
Countercultures on the other hand, are fundamentally different from subcultures. Countercultures arises for one reason and one reason only and that is to contest existing dominant cultures or certain aspects of it. They are comprised of people who feel just as strongly about certain issues and they band together to contest them and find a way to characterize themselves and fit into a society where they feel misrepresented.
The most prominent countercultures would be the Beat Generation and the Hippie Movement. The Beats Generation originated in the 1940s after the World-War II era and lasted throughout the 1950s which then paved the way for the Hippie Movement in the early 1960s. They aimed to reject the mainstream American culture with their shared the ideals, beliefs and fashion sense. They promoted peace and harmonious living with their signature phrase “make love, not war”. They flexibility towards the cultural rules and regulations with their use of recreational drugs and their open sexual relationships.
More examples would be Romanticism, or the Romantic Era, born during the Age of Enlightenment where people put more emphasis on emotions rather than intellect. The motivation behind this society was to draw attention to the worth and value of imagination and creativity while the rest of the world relied more on logic and facts.
At the end of the day, the unacceptability of countercultures are ephemeral. Eventually, their unconventional ways are bound to be welcomed by the dominant culture and will soon become widely accepted in the society and will come to be known as a subculture.
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