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Mainstream is current thought that is widespread. It includes all popular culture and media culture, typically disseminated by mass media. It is to be distinguished from subcultures and countercultures, and at the opposite extreme are cult followings and fringe theories.
This word is sometimes used in a pejorative sense by subcultures who view ostensibly mainstream culture as not only exclusive but artistically and aesthetically inferior. In the United States, mainline churches are sometimes referred to synonymously as "mainstream."
In the media
The labels "Mainstream media", or "mass media", are generally applied to print publications, such as newspapers and magazines that contain the highest readership among the public, and to radio formats and television stations that contain the highest viewing and listener audience, respectively. This is in contrast to various independent media, such as alternative media newspapers, specialized magazines in various organizations and corporations, and various electronic sources such as podcasts and blogs (Though certain blogs are more mainstream than others given their association with a mainstream source.
Mainstream science is scientific inquiry in an established field of study that does not depart significantly from orthodox theories. In the philosophy of science, mainstream science is an area of scientific endeavor that has left the process of becoming established. New areas of scientific endeavor still in the process of becoming established are generally labelled protoscience or fringe science. A definition of mainstream in terms of protoscience and fringe science can be understood from the following table:
|Systematized as scientific definition|
|Treated with scientific method|
|Attempts to be scientific or resembles science|
|Superstition||Pseudoscience||Protoscience||Fringe science||(Mainstream) science|
By its standard practices of applying good scientific methods, mainstream is distinguished from pseudoscience as a demarcation problem and specific types of inquiry are debunked as junk science, cargo cult science, scientific misconduct, etc.
Mainstream pressure, through actions such as peer pressure, can force individuals to conform to the mores of the group (e.g., an obedience to the mandates of the peer group). Some, such as those of modern Hipster culture, have stated that they see mainstream as the antithesis of individuality.
According to sociologist G. William Domhoff, critiques of mainstream sociology and political science that suggest their allegiance to an elite few, such as the work of sociologists C. Wright Mills (especially his book The Power Elite) and Floyd Hunter, troubles mainstream sociologists, and mainstream sociology "often tries to dismiss power structure research as muckraking or mere investigative journalism" and downplays the notion of dominance by a power elite because of doubts about the ability of many business sectors to coordinate a unified program, while generally overlooking a policy-planning network that can perform this function.
Mainstream Christianity is a term used to collectively refer to the common views of major denominations of Christianity (such as Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Protestantism) as opposed the particular tenets of other Christian denominations. The context is dependent on the particular issues addressed, but usually contrasts an orthodox majority view against a heterodox minority view. In the most common sense, "mainstream" refers to Nicene Christianity, that is the traditions which accept the Nicene Creed.
Mainstream American Protestant churches (also called "Mainline Protestant") are a group of Protestant churches in the United States that have stressed social justice and personal salvation, and both politically and theologically, tend to be more liberal than non-mainstream Protestants. Mainstream Protestant churches share a common approach that often leads to collaboration in organizations such as the National Council of Churches, and because of their involvement with the ecumenical movement, they are sometimes given the alternative label of "ecumenical Protestantism" (especially outside the United States). While in 1970 the mainstream Protestant churches claimed most Protestants and more than 30 percent of the American population as members, as of 2009 they are a minority among American Protestants, claiming approximately 15 percent of American adults.
"Mainstreaming" is the practice of bringing disabled students into the “mainstream” of student life. Mainstreamed students attend some classes with typical students and other classes with students that have similar disabilities. Mainstreaming represents a midpoint between full inclusion (all students spend all day in the regular classroom) and dedicated, self-contained classrooms or special schools (disabled students are isolated with other disabled students).
The term mainstream refers to the main current of a river or stream. Its figurative use by Thomas Carlyle to indicating the prevailing taste or mode is attested at least as early as 1831. Indeed, one citation of this sense is found prior to Carlyle's, as early as 1599.
- American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition (2011) (defining "mainstream" as "The prevailing current of thought, influence, or activity).
- American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition (2011) (defining "prevailing" as "Generally current; widespread...").
- Pysnakova, Michaela. "Understanding the Meaning of Consumption of Everyday Lives of 'Mainstream' Youth in the Czech Republic" in New Perspectives on Consumer Culture Theory and Research, p. 64 (Pavel Zahrádka and Renáta Sedláková eds. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013).
- Caldwell, John. "Faith in school: as mainstream churches continue to wrestle with homosexuality, some religious colleges are taking an increasingly welcoming attitude toward gay students", The Advocate Sept 2, 2003
- Baer, Hans A. "Black Mainstream Churches; Emancipatory or Accommodative Responses to Racism and Social Stratification in American Society?" Review of Religious Research Vol. 30, No. 2 (Dec., 1988), pp. 162-176
- Wallsten, K. (2007), Agenda Setting and the Blogosphere: An Analysis of the Relationship between Mainstream Media and Political Blogs. Review of Policy Research, 24: 567–587. doi: 10.1111/j.1541-1338.2007.00300.x
- Reflections on the reception of unconventional claims in science, newsletter Center for Frontier Sciences, Temple University (1990).
- Thomas Kuhn: Reflections on my critics. In: Imre Lakatos and A. Musgrave: Criticism and the growth of knowledge. Cambridge University Press, London (1974), pp. 231–278.
- Domhoff, G. William. "C. Wright Mills, Floyd Hunter, and 50 Years of Power Structure Research". Who Rules America?. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
- "The Nicene Creed", Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI, New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911,
The Nicene Creed is the profession of the Christian Faith common to the Catholic Church, to all the Eastern Churches separated from Rome, and to most of the Protestant denominations
- "Nicene Creed", Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica Online., 2007,
Christian statement of faith that is the only ecumenical creed because it is accepted as authoritative by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and major Protestant churches
- Moorhead, James H. (1999), World Without End: Mainstream American Protestant Visions of the Last Things, 1880–1925, Religion in North America, number 28, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. xxii, 241
- Chang, Perry (November 2006), Recent Changes in Membership and Attendance (PDF), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-02-02
- Wuthnow, Robert; Evans, John H., eds. (2002), The Quiet Hand of God: Faith-Based Activism and the Public Role of Mainline Protestantism, p. 4
- Hutcheson, Richard G., Jr. (1981), Mainline Churches and the Evangelicals: A Challenging Crisis?, Atlanta, Georgia: John Knox Press, pp. 36–37
- Hout, Michael; Greeley, Andrew; Wilde, Melissa J. (2001). "The Demographic Imperative in Religious Change in the United States". American Journal of Sociology. 107 (2): 468–500. doi:10.1086/324189.
- "Report Examines the State of Mainline Protestant Churches", Barna.org, The Barna Group, December 7, 2009, archived from the original on November 6, 2011
- "Mainstream (n)" Online Etymology Dictionary
- "mainstream". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)