Detachment from Categorization – What Do Future Countercultures Look Like?

Co-optation could be weighed against the Marxist theory on interest-bearing capital in that “no longer bears any birth marks of its origin; it represents ‘the perversion and objectification of productive relations to the highest degree’; it is only form without content.” (Pilling 1980)

”The media exists as a binding agent for communication systems, ideologies and ideas for the cultures. When you look at how Google or other sectors analyze your online behavior, namely consumerism, or how Facebook analyzes social behavior to create profiles, all of which are valuable to trendsetters you begin to realize the extent in which our identities are created for us by consumption. Counterculture identity plays perfectly into this equation, especially for youth cultures and as these cultures continue to grow and enter the marketplace, their ideologies will continue to be simplified, commodified and then replaced by the next countercultural trend by persevering marketers.” (Muggleton, Weinzierl 2003)

So, what do future countercultures look like?

Postmodern youth has evolved from a blend of cross-cultural commodities music, social interaction and visual identifiers that have developed into the meaning behind cultural objects. (Muggleton, 2000)

detachmentFigure 23 Admin  (Source 2016)

If you were a counterculture in the past, you were in all the way, it was unthinkable to be part of another. Today, it isn’t unusual to be a part of several countercultures to form an identity.  Many things suggest that future countercultures will become more complex in a future where globalization plays the omnipresent because of the internet and virtual worlds. This present day ideology differs from the past in that the critical mass of individuals needed to create a viable counterculture are no longer limited to physical location or a number. People with even the most obscure interests can find each other and develop their own subcultures. There are so many interconnecting parts of cyber countercultures that it is impossible to number, but the core ideas were present long before the 1960s, and will continue long after they’ve passed. (Curio 2015)

It is believed that these web based communities offer a safe haven away from trend forecasters and provide tightly woven cyber communities, but marketers have found many ways to cash in on this trend with video games and fashions. As with any movement, the question remains: Will they sell out? Will they be co-opted? As history has shown, like the hippies of the 60s, who co opted out and were willing to cash it in for a lifestyle of free enterprise, so many ex-hackers now work for computer security companies. This suggests that an analysis of the intellectual synergy between countercultures and mainstream marketers may offer an alternative to the typical understanding of co-optation.

“Rebel youth culture remains the cultural mode of the corporate movement. It is undeniable that there has been cultural value in an underground community. Even in a concrete way such ever-changing forward thinking movements provide what the mass culture cannot do without because they challenge the establishment and bring new thoughts to the table, but most importantly, they adapt new myths that can invigorate a society.” (Frank 1997)

As noted throughout this blog, when Corporate America began presenting the delusion that one’s personal freedom to communicate a sense of rebellion was possible through purchasing certain products, a mass explosion of the consumerist culture resulted. I believe the critique to demonstrate such an illusion has created a sense of entitlement as expressed through commodification of certain products. Today, we live in a world where the rich no longer have rights to certain commodities as in the past. Even those living in poverty are able to purchase high priced statement items such as shoes or jewelry and participate in the capitalist system.

Because of the post war boom, American capitalism grew in the 50s and laid the groundwork for a consumer culture that increased exponentially from that point on. As history has shown, it is the most successful movements that spread until the core message has been absorbed. Consumers don’t view corporate bureaucracy the same way as a designer or a culturalist does because culture has been developed by design with deliberation of semiotics and cultural symbols through various codes.


Curio, J., 2015. The Rebel Commodity. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 01 03 2017].

Frank, T., 1997. Why Johnny Can’t Dissent. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 01 12 2016].

Muggleton, D., 2000. Inside Subculture, The Postmodern Meaning of Style. New York: Berg.

Muggleton, D. a. W. R., 2003. The Post-Subcultures Reader. 1st ed. Oxford. New York. : Berg.

Pilling, G., 1980. Marx’s Capital, Philosophy and Political Economy. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 04 2017].


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