Friday, December 31, 2010

Subculture as a popular response to modernity


    If, as I suspect, modernity creates the conditions that allow multiple, simultaneous, antagonistic cultural threads to exist within the same greater culture-that is, if modernity is the force that allows differences in perspective to exist as a result of its dissolution of previous ways of knowing-then subculture itself is a modern phenomenon, a product of modernity.  

Culture, sub- or otherwise, is practically by definition a product of the popular collective imagination-only in the fantasies of Maoists does culture come from anyone other than the great collective. So, I could point backward at the history of subcultures as a history of popular response to modernism. If I did, I could point to trends within these popular responses that group them loosely into two categories: alternatives to modernity, and engagements with modernity. Alternatives to modernity suggest (aesthetically or explicitly) a way of life that circumvents the problems inherent to modernity. Engagements with modernity suggest, inherently or explicitly, ways of life that attempt to rectify or incorporate the problems inherent to modernity.

ALTERNATIVES TO                                                ENGAGEMENTS WITH
    MODERNITY                                                                MODERNITY
     Heavy Metal                                                                        Punk
      Steampunk                                                                     Jazz/Beats
 Renaissance-fair type events                                           Dada/surrealism
   Anarcho-primitivism                                                          Situationists
  Nazism/Nationalism                                                Soviet communism/Maoism
Dropouts/back-to-the-land                                                  Industrial music
   The Occult/New Age                                               “Rave”/early techno scene
 Dungeons and Dragons                                                    Mod/60’s Psych
        Italian Futurism                                                    Cybernetics/Futurology
        Pop Psychology                                         Pop Psychology/human potential
   Organized Racism                                          Alternative fuels/technology nerds          Religious Right/fundamentalism                        Anarchism/lefty political radicalism  Postapocalypse/Zombie apocalypse fantasies                         Queer
                                                                                           Organized Labor

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