Counterculture - Wikipedia
The counterculture of the s was an anti-establishment cultural phenomenon that As the era unfolded, new cultural forms and a dynamic subculture which . namely updated forms of T-shirts (often tie-dyed, or emblazoned with political or . The emergence of the New Left in the s and s led to a revival of. New Left, a broad range of left-wing activist movements and intellectual currents that refer more narrowly to particular segments within or alongside those movements. especially with regard to concepts of class, agency, ideology, and culture. of international relations characterized by the existence of two superpowers). Based on Profanations: The Baby Boom, Culture of Youth, and the New History of Education . The Counter Culture and New Left Politics of psycho-biological or medical models of the relationship between individual socialization and social.
The counterculture in the United States has been interpreted as lasting roughly from to  —coincident with America's involvement in Vietnam—and reached its peak in August at the Woodstock Festival, New York, characterized in part by the film Easy Rider Unconventional or psychedelic dress; political activism; public protests; campus uprisings; pacifist then loud, defiant music; drugs; communitarian experimentsand sexual liberation were hallmarks of the sixties counterculture—most of whose members were young, white and middle-class.
To some Americans, these attributes reflected American ideals of free speechequality, world peaceand the pursuit of happiness; to others, they reflected a self-indulgent, pointlessly rebellious, unpatriotic, and destructive assault on the country's traditional moral order.
Authorities banned the psychedelic drug LSDrestricted political gatherings, and tried to enforce bans on what they considered obscenity in books, music, theater, and other media. The counterculture has been argued to have diminished in the early s, and some have attributed two reasons for this.
First, it has been suggested that the most popular of its political goals— civil rightscivil libertiesgender equalityenvironmentalismand the end of the Vietnam War —were "accomplished" to at least some degree ; and also that its most popular social attributes—particularly a " live and let live " mentality in personal lifestyles the " sexual revolution " —were co-opted by mainstream society.
The counterculture, however, continues to influence social movementsart, music, and society in general, and the post mainstream society has been in many ways a hybrid of the s establishment and counterculture.
Photographer Steve Schapiro investigated and documented these contemporary hippie communities from to He traveled the country with his son, attending festival after festival. Australia[ edit ] Australia's countercultural trend followed the one burgeoning in the US, and to a lesser extend the one in Great Britain.
Political scandals in the country, such as the disappearance of Harold Holtand the constitutional crisisas well as Australia's involvement in Vietnam Warled to a disillusionment or disengagement with political figures and the government. Large protests were held in the countries most populated cities such as Sydney and Melbourneone prominent march was held in Sydney in on George Street.
The photographer Roger Scottwho captured the protest in front of the Queen Victoria Buildingremarked: The old conservative world was ending and a new Australia was beginning. The demonstration was almost silent.
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The atmosphere was electric. The protesters were committed to making their presence felt … It was clear they wanted to show the government that they were mighty unhappy". One of Australia's most noted literary voices of the counter-culture movement was Frank Moorhousewhose collection of short stories, Futility and Other Animals, was first published in Sydney Great Britain[ edit ] Starting in the late s the counterculture movement spread from the US like a wildfire.
Nevertheless, British youth readily identified with their American counterparts' desire to cast off the older generation's social mores. The new music was a powerful weapon. In this case, it took the form of a wholesale revolt against the class system, which was now being questioned for the first time in the nation's history.
Rock music, which had first been introduced from the US in the s, became a key instrument in the social uprisings of the young generation and Britain soon became a groundswell of musical talent thanks to groups like the BeatlesRolling Stonesthe WhoPink Floydand more in coming years.
During the early s, the Soviet government rigidly promoted optimism in Russian culture. Divorce and alcohol abuse were viewed as taboo by the media. However, Russian society grew weary of the gap between real life and the creative world,[ citation needed ] and underground culture became "forbidden fruit".
General satisfaction with the quality of existing works led to parody, such as how the Russian anecdotal joke tradition turned the setting of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy into a grotesque world of sexual excess. Their revolt against order and tradition in the quest for freedom and innovation also included the dangers of atomisation, anarchy and self-annihilation that felled the counterculture as the s came to an end with a succession of drug overdoses, violent episodes and generally bad vibes.
The Ornette Coleman Quartet personified a potentially higher synthesis of this conflict between the individual and society in their practice of collective improvisation, but this was not the direction the s took as the counterculture became increasingly libertarian in a strictly individualistic sense, eventually devolving into a self-absorbed culture of personal growth in the s.
The folk music subculture embodied a dual character that would ultimately prove unsustainable in the s: Folk music is rooted in tradition and inherently suspicious of modernity: Folk music maintained a presence in American society in large part through the labour movement and the political Left, where folk was celebrated not only for its lyrics about popular struggle but also for the participatory form of its common ownership and accessibility to anyone with relatively simple instruments.
The neighbourhood of Greenwich Village that became a central point for the folk revival had previously been the setting for collaborations between bohemia and the American Left in the period roughly between andwhen the anarchist Emma Goldman was regularly rabble-rousing in the streets, John Reed wrote Ten Days that Shook the World after witnessing the Bolshevik Revolution, and intellectuals, artists and labour activists intermingled at the salon of heiress Mabel Dodge Stansell Alongside Joan Baez, Dylan took folk to the apex of both its commercial popularity and social significance, but he also pushed the contradiction between folk realism and bohemian modernism to its breaking point, from which a new synthesis developed in the second half of the s.
In his early years, Dylan crafted his image and style to meet the expectations of his audience, which grew from the folk scene in Greenwich Village to the college campus circuit across the US during the peak years of the Civil Rights Movement.
When he dropped the folkie image in favour of dark sunglasses, motorcycle gear and an electric rock band, Dylan was greeted with a polarity of responses akin to those that faced Ornette Coleman: Dylan abandoned the cultural field of folk, but in doing so he created a new field of possibilities for rock, mainly by linking the music and his new image to the lineages of Romanticism and the defiant poets and painters of modernity.
In the second half of the s, musicians began to approach rock as a means of experimentation and self-exploration, and music became an intellectual, emotional and physical medium of social change surpassing what folk had once been. Modernisation and Modernism in the s 5My argument situates the music and counterculture of the s within the forms of modernism and the processes of modernisation that spanned from the end of the Second World War until the economic and geopolitical crises of the early s.
This particular stage of modernisation was fuelled by monopoly capitalism with a greater degree of state management and planning, one which has been supplanted by a more chaotic, global yet decentralised form of neo-liberal capitalism since the s Harvey In the post-war years, capital conceded to pay higher wages because they stimulated lifestyles of mass consumption among the working populace while securing their loyalty to the corporation, thus resolving the crisis of under consumption and class warfare that threatened capital during the interwar years.
As the s began, American capitalism had reached new peaks of prosperity after more than a decade as the dominant power in the world economy, and this prosperity translated into roughly equal increases in the standard of living of people throughout the class structure. Considering the modernism of the s, Berman identifies three tendencies of cultural response to the conditions of modern life: The affirmative voices of the s welcomed the continuing evolution of the electronic media and the erosion of the boundaries separating art from commercial culture, whereas those who advocated withdrawal sought to maintain their ideals for the autonomy of art via self-referential formalism.
Most of all, the modernism of the s expressed a spirit of negation, an adversarial culture dedicated to destroying conventions and desecrating traditions. Berman remains dissatisfied with each of these affirmative, negative and withdrawn responses, but his survey of s modernism primarily examines high culture, urban architecture and the intelligentsia while saying little about popular music.
I believe that a closer look at the music of the s, along with the counterculture surrounding it, will reveal a dialectical ambivalence that Berman finds in an earlier generation of modernists — from Goethe and Marx to Baudelaire and Dostoyevsky — who did not simply affirm or reject modern life but instead tried to harness its creative energies in order to transcend its limits.
Against the processes of modernisation that praise novelty for its own sake, the folk revivalists sought to anchor themselves in the past, preserve the means of expression established by previous generations, and rediscover forms of community that had been shattered in the name of progress. This anti-modernisation style of modernism could also be seen in early s New York, where Jane Jacobs outlined an alternative conception of urban life in opposition to the sprawling, automobile-centred projects of Robert Moses, whose plan to build an expressway through lower Manhattan was thwarted by neighbourhood opposition led by Jacobs.
On the other hand, the free jazz of the same time embraced the spirit of modernisation with its frenetic pace, disdain for convention and tradition, and celebration of individual freedom from the collective. This type of modernism that aligned itself with the velocity and volatility of modernisation was also a recurring cultural tendency of the s, especially within the counterculture that was energised by an experimental approach to raising its collective consciousness while utilising the newest electronic media and chemical concoctions in the pursuit of self-expression.
However, in both free jazz and the folk revival we also see glimpses of an alternative, more ambivalent response, one that transcends the dichotomy of affirmative or negative responses to modernisation. Meanwhile, if the folk revival sought refuge from modernisation in clinging to tradition and community, a new crop of electrified rock bands were poised to demolish the cultural boundaries of folk in the process of opening new avenues for music.
Youth, Modernity and the Counterculture 9To fully understand the significance of the counterculture and its music during the s, we must consider the experience of youth which forms an intermediary relation between music and society. The technocracy that developed from post-war forms of modernisation provided this counterculture with its various targets for revolt: However, young people of the counterculture did not rebel simply in opposition to modernisation, but also to realise the promises of social and personal development that are the hallmarks of modernity.
These were not simply movements of resistance but also experiments in renewal, growth and possibility. The search for sources of personal and social transformation — and the confidence that they would eventually find those sources — characterised both the hippies and the New Left, even if they differed on what needed changing and how to realise those changes.
The rebellions of the s took shape in opposition to technocracy, but they were conceived in a maelstrom of flux and growth and nourished by the utopian vision of a post-scarcity society. Everywhere we see [young people] showing signs of dissatisfaction and rebellion.
Their finest qualities are the ones which cause them the most pain. Their vitality exposes them and makes them vulnerable.
It is they who are worst hit by the disjunction between representation and living, between ideology and practice, between the possible and the impossible. It is they who continue the uninterrupted dialogue between ideal and experiment.
The counterculture mocked the stability and predictability of modernisation while taking its productivity for granted, thus creating a utopian vision where the values of leisure, spontaneity and self-expression would triumph over work, discipline and instrumental rationality. The baby boom generation was uniquely privileged in the sense that they inherited the confidence of the post-war years and symbolised the apparently bright future of American society. It was less a counter-culture than a counterfeit culture.
To tease this distinction out, we want to consider the value of the counterculture concept for the study of oppositional subcultures. The Relationship between Counterculture and Subculture Many scholars point to the Chicago School of sociology as developing the first clear articulation of subcultural groups that differed clearly from mainstream society see for example, Gelder and Thornton; Hannerz, E.
Cressey, Frederic Thrasher, and later William Foote Whyte each provide exemplary empirical studies of marginal groups that were susceptible to social problems and therefore more likely to develop cultures that were defined as problematic for the mainstream.
Robert Merton argued that marginalised groups formed as individuals tried to cope with the strain they experienced by their inability to access the cultural means such as good education and good jobs needed to achieve mainstream cultural goals primarily, material success and social statusbut Albert Cohen and others subsequently argued that such groups often reject mainstream culture in favour of a new, alternative culture instead.
Within a few years, conceptual distinctions among these alternative cultures were necessary, with counterculture and subculture being disambiguated in American sociology.
Yinger originally employed the term contraculture but eventually switched to the more common counterculture. Subculture became most often tied either to the study of religious and ethnic enclaves Mauss or to deviance and delinquency Arnoldwhile counterculture found its currency in framing the cultures of more explicitly political groups and movements see for example, Cushman; George and Starr. Perhaps the clearest analytical distinction between the terms suggested that subculture refer to ascribed differences based upon socio-economic status, ethnicity, religion and so on in relation to the mainstream, whereas counterculture should refer to groups rooted in an explicit rejection of a dominant culture.
This is similar to the distinction that Ken Gelder makes between subcultures based upon marginalisation versus non-normativity. Counterculture became best used wherever the normative system of a group contains, as a primary element, a theme of conflict with the values of the total society, where personality variables are directly involved in the development and maintenance of the group's values, and wherever its norms can be understood only by reference to the relationships of the group to a surrounding dominant culture.
Yinger, Contraculture Even at that time, however, such a neat distinction was problematic. Becker demonstrated that jazz musicians, for example, experienced a problem shared in many service occupations, namely that their clients did not possess the ability to judge properly the value of the service rendered, yet nevertheless sought to control it.
Yet Becker framed their experiences as subcultural rather than countercultural, as deviant rather than political Becker By the end of the s, subculture and counterculture had become analytically distinct terms within sociology. Cultural Studies and the Class-ification of Counterculture The reification of subculture and counterculture as ontologically distinct phenomena was more or less completed in the s through a series of publications on British youth cultures and subcultures see Hall and Jefferson; Hebdige; Mungham and Pearson.
The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies CCCS in particular expended a great deal of collective mental energy theorising the material base upon which cultures—and in particular spectacular youth subcultures such as mods and punk—exist. As with Marxist analyses of culture more generally, class was considered a key analytic variable. Given the Marxist orientation, it should go without saying that subcultures, as working-class youth cultures, were seen as naturally in a state of conflict with bourgeois culture.
The idea that counterculture represented an overtly political response from within the dominant culture itself fitted with work by Theodore Roszak and Frank Musgrove, and later Yinger Countercultures and Ulf Hannerz, who each defined counterculture through its political and activist orientations stemming from a crisis within the middle-class. To further differentiate the concepts, the CCCS dismissed the collective aspect of middle-class resistance see Clarke et al.
And whereas subcultures were centred on leisure-time activities within working-class environments, countercultures were concerned with a blurring of the boundaries between work and leisure. This conceptualisation was problematic at best, not least because it limits counterculture to the middle-class and subculture to the working class. It also gave considerably more agency and consequence to middle-class youths. Beyond the Limits of Class Cultures By cultural studies scholars had begun disassembling the class-basis of subcultures see for example, G.
Even though many studies still focused on stylised forms of opposition, subcultural scholarship increasingly emphasised subcultures such as punk as reflecting a more explicitly politicised resistance against the dominant or mainstream culture. Hannerz; Copes and Williamswhile others questioned what subcultures could be seen as existing independently from, or in assumed opposition to see Blackman; Thornton. In such cases, we can see a move toward reconciling the alleged limits of subculture as a countercultural concept.
Instead of seeing subcultures as magical solutions and thus inevitably impotent, more recent research has considered the agency of social actors to overcome social divisions such as race, gender, and class.
On the dance floor in particular, youth culture was theorised as breaking free of its class-binding shackles. For these scholars, the rave and club cultures of the s, and others since, represent youth culture as hedonistic and relatively apolitical.
Reincorporating the Counter into Subculture Studies The postmodern focus on cultural fluidity, individuality, and consumption highlights to some extent the agency that individuals have to make choices about the cultures in which they participate.
To be sure, the postmodern and post-subculture critiques of class-based subculture studies were quite influential in the development of more recent subcultural scholarship, though not necessarily as they were intended. Much of the theoretical rhetoric of post-subculture scholarship over- emphasised heterogeneity, contingency, and play, which drew attention away from the collective identities and practices that continue to characterise many subcultures and groups.
Two trends in social theory are exemplary in this reiteration. Resistance is qualitatively different from rebellion, which is often framed in terms of unconscious or irrational behaviour Raby ; resistance is first and foremost intentional. The concept of resistance thus gives some momentum to attempts to clarify the extent to which members of alternative cultures intentionally break with the mainstream.