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Society and Culture

Hierarchy of Cultures


Hierarchy of Cultures, page 2

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In societies where there are different kinds of people, one group is usually larger or more powerful than the others. Generally, societies consist of a dominant culture, subcultures, and countercultures.

Dominant Culture

The dominant culture in a society is the group whose members are in the majority or who wield more power than other groups. In the United States, the dominant culture is that of white, middle-class, Protestant people of northern European descent. There are more white people here than African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, or Native Americans, and there are more middle-class people than there are rich or poor people.


A subculture is a group that lives differently from, but not opposed to, the dominant culture. A subculture is a culture within a culture. For example, Jews form a subculture in the largely Christian United States. Catholics also form a subculture, since the majority of Americans are Protestant. Members of these subcultures do belong to the dominant culture but also have a material and nonmaterial culture specific to their subcultures.

Religion is not the only defining aspect of a subculture. The following elements can also define a subculture:

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