Political Subcultures: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Definition of a Subculture
  • 1:35 Democratic Subcultures
  • 3:07 Republican Subcultures
  • 4:16 Unaffiliated Subcultures
  • 5:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David White
Within large political parties there are smaller groups that share some beliefs with the dominant group, but oppose other beliefs. Through this lesson, you will explore how some of these subcultures operate in American politics and gain insight into their ideologies.

Definition of a Subculture

When it comes to politics, particularly in Western countries, there are usually a small number of major political parties. For instance, in America the two biggies are the Democrats and the Republicans, and in the UK they're the Labour and Conservative parties. These are the broad categories that most government representatives fall into, but within those groups there are a variety of smaller political subcultures.

A subculture is a group of people that fit into the larger culture, but generally have characteristics or beliefs that set them apart from the larger group to varying degrees. The American LGBT community, for example, is a subculture because the people in it are all Americans, but their sexual orientation or gender set them apart from the dominant heterosexual culture in the United States.

When it comes to political subcultures, these smaller groups usually identify with their larger party in many ways, but may possess certain beliefs or ideas that differentiate themselves from the larger party. Despite being a part of the larger party, these subcultures can be perceived as resistance groups. This means that while they may share some ideas and objectives with the dominant group, they oppose the status quo and instead hope to change certain aspects of the system to be more aligned with their beliefs.

There are many political subcultures around the world and across history, and it would be impossible to discuss them all within the space of this lesson. Given that, the following sections will explore some of the more common or familiar American political subcultures and provide some insight into their beliefs.

Democratic Subcultures

When it comes to political subcultures, it's not entirely accurate to say that they usually fall within either Democratic or Republican parties. Though they will often share beliefs or values with one or both parties, the characteristics or objectives that set them apart can be antithetical to the traditions of the larger party, making them seem almost independent. Nevertheless, for the purposes of this lesson, we'll break them down into either Democratic or Republican subcultures.

Democratic Socialism is less of a political party and more of a political ideology. Those aligned with this movement advocate for blending the Western democratic political system with the economic system of socialism. This is a complicated idea because the socialism they're talking about isn't the same as the socialism associated with Karl Marx. In this case, they see capitalism as a negative influence on society and instead encourage a system in which the people share a great deal of collective ownership and responsibility for their welfare and well-being.

Like Democratic Socialism, Progressivism is another movement that is future-oriented and interested in the well-being of the people. In this case, however, it's a movement that views science, technology, and economic opportunity as the most important aspect of social improvement. The emphasis on scientific inquiry and evidence-based objectivity puts Progressives at odds with social conservatives, who tend to be people of faith whose identities and political perspectives are heavily influenced by their respective religions.

Republican Subcultures

In recent years, the American Republican party has gained considerable attention for the rising influence of groups like the Tea Party. The Tea Party is a movement within the American Republican party that emphasizes a dramatic reduction in governmental spending and opposes the idea of big government, a term that refers to governmental involvement in state and local affairs. The group takes their name from the Boston Tea Party in 1773, in which Massachusetts residents protested being taxed by the British without having representation within the British government.

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