Meaning of Counterculture

What is Counterculture:

The term counterculture refers to those cultural movements that oppose the dominant or hegemonic culture. As a rule, these movements directly or indirectly confront the established social order, which generates in them nonconformity, discomfort, frustration, indignation or resistance.

Counterculture groups oppose dominant social values ​​through symbols or public actions. In this sense, they challenge the established norms within society through many resources.

Such resources can cover elements such as dress code, verbal language, body language, lifestyle, artistic expressions and political activities, among many others.

The trends will depend on the type of motivation that animates the groups, since these differ in their objectives. However, they have in common the rejection of cultural hegemony and the feeling of marginalization in the system.

can be recognized two senses in the use of the term counterculture: a historical sensewhere all the recognizable countercultural groups throughout history have a place, and a sociological sensewhich refers to the groups that manifest themselves from the 60s to the present with very particular characteristics.

See also:

  • Culture.
  • Subculture.
  • Social movements.

Origin of the counterculture

The expression counterculture was coined by historian Theodore Roszak, who in 1968 published a book called The birth of a counterculture. In the book, Roszak reflects on the technocratic society and the mechanisms that youth sectors activated to confront it.

Although it is clear that countercultural phenomena are older than this term, it makes sense that it was born in the context of the changes that occurred in the mid-20th century.

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In the middle of the 20th century, the company became a mass consumer society, leaving behind the still recent traditional order. The masive means of comunication and the culture industry that reached their apogee then, had a leading role in the reconfiguration of society and the ways of appropriating information.

The atmosphere of confrontation promoted by the Cold War and the Vietnam War also took their toll, generating great anxiety in the social environment.

If everything that challenges the dominant culture is considered to be counterculture, the civil rights movement in the US, the free speech movement, feminism, environmentalism and liberation can be included in the list gaywhich appeared or became stronger in the 1960s.

To them are also added the groups that rebelled against the dominant order and proposed other lifestyles, such as the hippies, psychedelia and urban tribes. Popular music, in fact, was also a countercultural phenomenon in the 1960s.

Since then, other countercultural groups have emerged alongside new realities. The 1970s, 1980s and 1990s also spawned such groups. We can mention the punkthe grungyand many more.

See also:

  • Urban tribes.
  • Psychedelic.
  • Underground.

Controversy on the counterculture

Although countercultural movements appear as a reaction and alternative to the hegemonic society, some of them have not really managed to capitalize on a social transformation.

For certain researchers, such as the Venezuelan writer Luis Britto García, countercultures are captured by the dominant order and transformed into subcultures of consumption, which makes their power invisible or nullifies and makes them part of what they oppose.

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The commodification of countercultural symbols would be proof of this, since these symbols, available in a commercial window, do not express more than individual tastes and orientations, but do not shake the foundations of society.