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Subject: Social Science

How can subcultural theories help understand lifestyle, life chances and identity formation in so-called urban “ghettos”? ...[Show More]

3 years ago

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 A subculture is a phenomenon that entails a theoretical definition. Subcultures have for long been misunderstood through the conceptual basis that forms the framework for their definition. Literature suggests that subcultures cannot be defined unless they are created and are in existence. Consequently, there are no predetermined criteria for categorizing or defining subcultures. They can only be defined after existence using the class, age, geographical borders, and race (Wacquant, 1998). The study of subcultures is mainly involved with the interest in the diversity of cultural formations within urban areas. Subcultures have since become a very interesting phenomenon forming the basis of studies on what it is that ties people together to a certain subculture.

In an effort to understand how subcultural theories assist in the comprehension of different aspects of culture, one would have to delve deeper into a specific subculture. This paper will try to analyze the significance of subcultural theories in the betterment of the comprehension of lifestyles, life changes and identity formations in so-called “urban” ghettos. In order to achieve this, a deep understanding of the so-called urban ghettos needs to be established. Then, and only then, can one look at a cultural formation in urban areas and understand how the concept of subcultural theories shines light upon various aspects of cultural formations.

Furthermore, concepts of subcultural theories have proved to be helpful in understanding the different cultural formations that exist. Concepts of subcultural theories are however treated as abstract concepts due to the apparent lack of sufficient material to prove or define the boundaries of a given subculture. One major concept of subcultural theories is the communication-interlocks. This concept thrives on arguing that there are types of interactions that significantly facilitate the dynamism and diversification of subcultures (Schmalleger & Volk, 2014). The concept includes ideas like Idio-cultures, interactions between powerful members of a subculture, weak ties and societies that privilege certain interpretations of a subcultural milieu. The concept of communication-interlocks has been employed sufficiently in this paper to guide the investigation on how subcultural theories assist in understanding the different aspects of cultural formations.

Urban ghettos are defined as urban areas whose population mostly consists of minorities. The minorities include people who have suffered for long under economic, legal or social pressure (Schmalleger, & Volk, 2013). Most urban ghettos are occupied by blacks. In America, most of the black population resides in the ghettos (Wacquant, 1998). Looking at the history of the term ghetto, one realizes its long history in Venice where it was first used to mean an area where the Jewish community was segregated and restricted. From its historical origin, the term ghetto has been used to define an area inhabited by a part of the population that has been kept apart from the greater community.

Essentially, urban ghettos are mostly populated by the black community. The black community has a rich historical connection with the hip hop subculture. The hip-hop subculture was formed due to the need to rebel against the white majority of the community. The hip hop culture was also aimed at fighting oppression and historical injustices they suffer. The injustice which has had an adverse economic influence on the black community. Therefore, there are sufficient reasons why the black community, living in the urban ghettos has identified itself with the hip hop subculture.

There are mainly three theories that can be used to explain how subcultural theories assist in explaining the different aspects of cultural formations. The theories include social disorganization, strain, and cultural conflict theories. Social conflict theory defines the society as an organism from a perspective of deviance and crime where crime and deviance are a disease affecting the organism. Consequently, using this particular concept of subcultural theories, one may understand the existing lifestyle, life changes and identities in the urban ghettos.  

For instance, social disorganization theory shows that in low-class subcultures which are present in the so-called urban ghettos, Violence has become an accepted lifestyle. This violent lifestyle is learned from emphasizes of the specific subculture and certain circumstances individuals face when they live in urban ghettoes. According to Schmalleger & Volk (2014), a low-class subculture is depicted by a tradition with a distinctive pattern which has been established for long and has an integrity of its own. Considering the urban ghettos to belong to a low-class subcultural, one would understand the large body of values that has essentially been designed to support and thereby maintain a low-class basic way of life. Through the comprehension of the body of values that is identified with low-class cultures that are present in the urban ghetto, one can understand be able to visualize the existing connection between a cultural formation and the lifestyles, life changes and identities that relate to a certain cultural formation.


Subcultures theories are therefore very significant in the comprehension of a various phenomenon that arises from the cultural formation which results to a subculture. The cultural implications of the urban ghettos can be expressed or rather explained through the subcultural theories that surround cultural formations in the so-called urban ghettos.




Schmalleger and Volk (2014) Subcultural theory.

Schmalleger, F. J., & Volk, R. (2013). Canadian criminology today: Theories and applications. Pearson Education Canada.

Wacquant, L. (1998). Inside the Zone The Social Art of the Hustler in the Black American Ghetto. Theory, Culture & Society15(2), 1-36.

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