In Youth Activism in the 1990s Dennis (2006) describes the prevailing subculture of the twentieth century. Interestingly, in a culture where corporate America, economic performance and consumerism were the prevailing cultural drivers, to Dennis (2006) the resulting subculture represented exactly the opposite. According to Dennis (2006) the demonstrations against the World Trade Organization (WTO) that occurred in Seattle in 1990s is a clear illustration of the youth subculture that formed in the twentieth century. Intended as a demonstration of how subcultures are formed through cultural influences and economic conditions, Dennis explains that the demonstrations were organized as a means to execute democracy, voice an opinion and gather as a community. According to Dennis, when the generation could be characterized by technological breakthroughs allowing for individual and separate functioning, the subculture that developed revolved around forming a community against the drivers of individuality, consumerism and separation. In essence, the subculture that formed in the 20th century was about forming bounds and social responsibility.
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In a culture where individuality, freedom and autonomy took precedence through concepts of free trade, consumerism and the internet Dennis explains that prevailing subculture was about unity and community. Dennis illustrates that subcultures are often formed through a reaction against the prevailing culture. Dennis traces the occurrence of civil disobedience from the 1960s represented by the Punk style as a form of rejection to the idea of corporate America. The dissent conducted through style statements progressed in the early 90s through cultural expressions in the form of music, art and other media through the grunge movement. These examples cited by Dennis clearly illustrate that the formation of subcultures is directly related to the prevailing culture, in the case of punk, grunge and activism, the subculture was against the prevailing culture.
What is interesting about Dennis' explanation is it not only discusses the prevalent anti-status quo subculture that developed in the 20th century, it also illustrates how similar subcultures, or a subculture of dissent, are formed throughout every generation. In the 20th century, when the country began on steady economic development, increasing technological breakthroughs and a relatively richer nation; in a time when very little complaining could be made, the subculture formed was about fighting the status quo of development.
Dennis further illustrates that the subculture illustrated through the demonstrations in Seattle was not really about a growing distrust of corporations and capitalism but more about forming bonds and communities. Dennis explains that the protestors did not go to Seattle with one unifying cause, each group had their own specific agenda. What drove these activists to Seattle was the idea of coming together and protesting. As such the subculture formed was influenced not only by the economy and the prevailing culture, but also of the desire to assimilate. Dennis further emphasizes this insight by illustrating that the protestors were not really in Seattle with the fundamental agenda of fighting for economic responsibility and equality.
Dennis illustrates that in fact, the majority of the protestors were privileged white youths who were fighting for the protection of impoverished populations throughout the world but failed to see the social inequalities within their own nation. Dennis explains that while the protestors came together it was noticeable that few African Americans, the minority who suffered many social injustices during that period, was not represented and participated very little in agenda set for the demonstrations. Through this argument Dennis illustrates that the subculture of activism was not about a social cause, but more about forming bonds.
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