We explain what popular culture is, its elements and how it is classified. Also, what are its characteristics, history and more.

What is popular culture?

Popular culture is understood to be the accumulation of various cultural manifestations such as music , literature , art , fashion, dance , cinema , cyberculture, radio , television , etc., which are consumed by the widest public.

Accessing and enjoying popular culture requires little or no formal or academic preparation.

This term was coined in the 19th century , and made reference to the forms of culture traditionally attributed to disadvantaged social classes , as opposed to the culture of the elites, considered as "official" culture. That is why there was also talk of "high culture" and "low culture".

Today the notion of popular culture is more closely related to folklore and local traditions , as opposed to a “global” or internationalized culture, typical of digital networks and the 2.0 world, or of mass television broadcasts .

In this sense, it is preferred to speak of " mass culture " , as opposed to the "literate culture" of books or the "academic culture" of Fine Arts . It is also known as " Mainstream " culture .

Elements of popular culture

Popular culture is anything but homogeneous .

Its elements vary according to the place of enunciation and especially the (increasingly hybrid) forms of connection that you want to explore.

For example, in a country with an official Catholic culture, it is possible to find a popular culture that vindicates pagan traditions and exerts resistance.

Another type of popular culture in a Catholic setting can be exploring traditional forms of Catholicism and giving the aesthetics of said religion its own tone, its own and local form of cultural exercise.

A perfect example of this is the Caribbean Catholic saints , under which the gods of the Yoruba religion hide in a process of syncretism that began in colonial times .

Types of popular culture

Types of popular culture

Broadly speaking, we can talk about:

  • Folklore or traditional popular culture. It is the accumulation of traditions and celebrations that accompanies a people or a nation throughout its history. In it there are usually reminiscences of their ancestors and their founding rites that are preserved through practice to this day.
  • Mass popular culture. That typical of the large media and mass communication channels. They propose their own language and create a sense of community around informational consumption or leisure culture, as happens for example with cable television or streaming . It is often accused of being an imperialistic and homogenizing form of cultural consumption.
  • Popular culture 2.0 or Cyberculture. It is about the culture of frequent Internet users , whose forums, social networks and other exchange platforms generate social, cultural and even political practices. They also connect with fundamental ideas of nationality, tradition and propose new ways to express it.
  • Urban culture. That which is typical of street expression in cities , involving practices and scenarios typical of the city and its inhabitants.

Who are the authors of popular culture?

Who are the authors of popular culture

Popular culture, unlike classical culture, does not operate under the same authorship precept .

There are usually no authors of the dances, popular expressions, gastronomy or even the massive graphic messages (memes) that characterize Internet cyberculture.

If there were, popular culture is not interested in them. The only important thing is that the cultural product circulates , is consumed and survives.

History of popular culture

History of popular culture

The true "boom" of popular culture, which allowed it to be valued differently, took place in the 20th century , after the Second World War . At that time, the beginning of certain processes of globalization and the improvement of life expectancy were observed.

In this context, the culture of leisure arises , which was taken as a dynamic form of exchange between peoples, instead of something static that must be preserved.

To this we must add the technological development that brought about the end of the century and the emergence of new forms of virtual exchange through social and digital networks.

Thus, what was understood as popular culture undertook a complex transformation process , closer to global culture. It was opposed by "alternative" or "independent" cultural circuits, which distance themselves from the aesthetics of the masses and offer a more individual exploration.

Why is popular culture important?

Popular culture is a vital element in the sociological study of populations or communities . In it the wishes, dreams, fantasies and codes of the population are expressed , usually in their freest and "pure" form (if it can be spoken in these terms).

This freedom is due to the fact that it is not subject to institutions or to the control of a specific “official” tradition. That is why popular culture can change freely and adapt to the feeling of the times , as a kind of mirror of the minds of its practitioners.

Genres of popular culture

Genres of popular culture

Popular culture can be expressed through practically any form , but dance, mural painting, copla, song, theater , crafts, gastronomy, toys, clothing, music , basketry, the tissue, among others.

Cultural identity

Cultural identity

One of the most complicated points in the study of popular cultures is their relationship with the identity of peoples . The latter recognize themselves and their ancestral tradition through the ritual practice of their customs and their festivals, even in the cases of the most industrially advanced societies .

That is why popular culture is valued as a reservoir of cultural identity and it is sought to protect or preserve it.

However, this is a useless process: popular culture exists through change and adaptation to the times , and just as people's feelings change over time , so will their culture.



Hybridization is a mixing process also called syncretism . It means that two or more traditions found a new one, after a historical evolution that is not usually exempt from domination, class struggles and violence.

In other words, even between a dominant culture and a dominated one, hybridization occurs, resulting in a new popular culture, heir to both traditions.

This is what happened in the Hispanic Caribbean , for example, due to the miscegenation between white European, aboriginal American and black African cultures.

The culture of elites

The culture of elites or "high culture" is usually the culture of the wealthy or superior social classes .

It is usually linked to a specific tradition , not very accessible to the masses, and requires either a certain academic or specialized preparation, or a certain social status.

This division, however, is one that promises to disappear most rapidly in the face of the hybridization and mixing dynamics of postmodernity .

Examples of popular culture

Examples of popular culture

Typical examples of the so-called popular culture involve artistic manifestations such as street art ( street art , graffiti), urban music (hip-hop, street dance ).

Also included is the music linked to certain urban groups (jazz, rap, reggae, pop, etc.). The same occurs with "genre" or "mass" literatures (science fiction, horror, suspense), or "mass" cinema.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring reliable sources and recommendations from technology experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.


Abubakr Conner brings a diverse skill set to our team, and covers everything from analysis to the culture of food and drink. He Believes: "Education is the most powerful weapon that exists to change the world." .

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