The American counterculture describes the duration between 1964-1972 when the norms of the 1950s were largely rejected through youth.

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Key Takeaways

Key PointsA counterculture emerged in the United states in the late 1960s, lasting from roughly 1964 come 1972, and also coinciding with America’s joining in Vietnam. Counterculture youth garbage the cultural standards of their parents, especially with respect to gyeongju segregation, the Vietnam War, sexual mores, women’s rights, and materialism.Hippies were the biggest countercultural classification, and also were consisted of of greatly white members the the center class.The counterculture movement separated the country. To some, it reflect American ideals of free speech, equality, and also world peace; while to others, it reflect a self-indulgent and also unpatriotic assault on America’s ethical order. In an effort to quell the movement, government authorities banned the psychedelic medicine LSD, restricted political gatherings, and also tried to enforce bans top top what they thought about obscenity in books, music, theater, and other media. Several things led to the decline of the activity in the early on 1970s, including far-reaching progress ~ above the purposes of the movement and rising financial troubles that forced numerous former hippies to rely on tendency institutions.Key Termsquash: To defeat forcibly.mores: A term provided to refer to social standards that are widely observed and also are considered to have greater moral significance than others.counterculture: Any society whose values and also lifestyles room opposed to those of the established mainstream culture.stagflation: Inflation accompanied by stagnant growth, unemployment, or recession.

The development of the Counterculture

A counterculture emerged in the United says in the so late 1960s, lasting from approximately 1964 to 1972, and also coinciding through America’s joining in Vietnam. It was characterized by the denial of conventional social norms—in this case, the standards of the 1950s. The counterculture youth rubbish the cultural standards of their parents, specifically regarding racial segregation and initial widespread assistance for the Vietnam War.

Woodstock Youth: This photo was taken close to the wooden storm Music Festival in August, 1969. The counterculture in the 1960s was characterized by young people breaking away from the traditional culture of the 1950s.

As the 1960s progressed, prevalent tensions developed in American culture that tended to circulation along generational lines concerning the battle in Vietnam, race relations, sexual mores, women’s rights, traditional modes of authority, and also a materialist interpretation of the American Dream. Many thanks to widespread financial prosperity, white, middle-class youth—who consisted of the mass of the counterculture—had sufficient recreation time to turn their fist to society issues.

Vietnam battle Protest: The counterculture the the 1960s was significant by a growing distrust that government, which consisted of anti-war protests, such together the one presented in this picture.

Ideals and Interests

Unconventional appearance, music, drugs, communitarian experiments, and sexual liberation were hallmarks of the 1960s counterculture, most of whose members were white, middle-class, young Americans. Hippies became the biggest countercultural team in the united States. The counterculture reached its top in the 1967 “Summer of Love,” as soon as thousands the young world flocked come the Haight-Ashbury district of san Francisco. The counterculture lifestyle combined many the the ideals that the time, consisting of peace, love, harmony, music, and mysticism. Meditation, yoga, and psychedelic drugs were often adopted as courses to broadening one’s consciousness. Spiritually, the counterculture consisted of interest in astrology, the term “Age the Aquarius,” and knowing people’s astrological signs.


The peace Sign: The tranquility sign came to be a significant symbol the the counterculture of the 1960s.


Rejection of mainstream society was ideal embodied in the new genres that psychedelic rock music, pop-art, and new explorations in spirituality. Musicians that exemplified this era encompass The Beatles, The grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The rojo Stones, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and also Pink Floyd. New forms of music presentation additionally played a crucial role in dispersing the counterculture, mainly large outdoor absent festivals. The climactic live explain of this arisen from august 15-18, 1969, v the wooden storm Music Festival hosted in Bethel, new York. Throughout this weekend festival, 32 the rock and psychedelic rock’s most renowned acts performed live outdoors come an audience of fifty percent a million people. Countercultural sentiments were expressed in tune lyrics and also popular sayings of the period, such together “do your own thing”; “turn on, track in, fall out”; “whatever turns you on”; “eight mile high”; “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll”; and also “light my fire.” 

Cultural Divisions and the collapse of the Movement

The counterculture movement divided the country. To some Americans, the motion reflected American ideals of totally free speech, equality, civilization peace, and the pursuit of happiness. Come others, it reflected a self-indulgent, pointlessly rebellious, unpatriotic, and also destructive assault on America’s traditional moral order. In an initiative to quash the movement, federal government authorities prohibition the psychedelic medicine LSD, limited political gatherings, and tried come enforce bans top top what they considered obscenity in books, music, theater, and also other media. 

Ultimately, the counterculture fell down on its own around 1973. Two main reasons are cited because that the collapse. First, the most renowned of the movement’s political purposes (civil rights, polite liberties, gender equality, environmentalism, and the finish of the Vietnam War) had actually made far-reaching gains, and its most popular social characteristics (particularly a “live-and-let-live” mentality in an individual lifestyles; i.e., the “sexual revolution”) were largely co-opted by tendency society. Second, a decline of idealism and also hedonism developed as plenty of notable counterculture figures died, and the rest resolved into mainstream society to begin their very own families. The “magic economy” of the 1960s gave way to the stagflation the the 1970s, and many middle-class american no longer had actually the deluxe of living exterior of traditional social institutions. 

The counterculture, however, continues to influence social movements, art, music, and society today, and also the post-1973 mainstream society has been in many ways a hybrid the the 1960s establishment and counterculture—seen together the finest (or the worst) the both worlds.

Theatre and Novels

The counterculture of the 1960s provided rise to brand-new forms that media, such as underground newspapers, literature, theatre, and also cinema. 

Learning Objectives

Examine the expression the countercultural values in media, such together newspapers and theatre

Key Takeaways

Key PointsThe counterculture the the 1960s provided rise to numerous independent or underground papers whose publishers were frequently harassed by police. The hatchet “underground newspaper” usually refers to an independent newspaper focusing on unpopular themes or counterculture issues. Typically, these often tend to be politically come the left or far left.The boom in the underground press was made helpful by the ease of access of cheap offset printing, which made it possible to print a few thousand duplicates of a little tabloid file for a few hundred dollars. The Beats to be a group of post-World war II American writers who concerned prominence in the 1950s.Central aspects of Beat society included experimentation with drugs, alternative forms of sexuality, an attention in eastern religion, a denial of materialism, and also the idealizing that exuberant way of expression and being. Music theatre in the 1960s began to diverge indigenous the fairly narrow confines of the 1950s; because that example, the musical Hair to be the first of plenty of musicals to use rock music.Like newspapers and also theatre, the cinema of the time also reflected the qualities of the counterculture.Key TermsThe Establishment: A term provided to describe a visible dominant group or elite that holds power or government in a nation.counterculture: Any culture whose values and lifestyles are opposed come those that the developed mainstream culture, specifically to western culture.Offset Printing: A generally used printing method in which the inked photo is transferred from a plate to a rubber blanket, climate to the print surface.

Counterculture in Literature: Underground push in the 1960s

In the U.S., the term “underground newspaper” usually refers come an live independence newspaper focusing on unpopular themes or counterculture issues. Typically, these tend to be politically to the left or far left. The hatchet most regularly refers to publication of the duration 1965-1973, as soon as an underground newspaper craze swept the country. This publications came to be the voice of the rising brand-new Left and also the hippie/psychedelic/rock and also roll counterculture the the 1960s in America; they were additionally a focal suggest of opposition to the Vietnam War and the draft. Underground newspapers sprang increase in many cities and college towns, offer to define and communicate the selection of phenomena that defined the counterculture: radical politics opposition to “The Establishment”; vibrant experimental (and often explicitly drug-influenced) approaches to art, music, and also cinema; and uninhibited indulgence in sex and also drugs as a prize of freedom.

The boom in the underground press was made valuable by the availability of cheap counter printing, which do it feasible to publish a couple of thousand duplicates of a tiny tabloid record for a couple of hundred dollars. File was cheap, and many printing firms about the country had over-expanded during the 1950s, leaving them with excess volume on their offset internet presses, which might be negotiated at bargain rates.

One of the first underground newspapers of the 1960s to be the Los Angeles complimentary Press, founded in 1964 and first published in 1965. The Rag, founded in Austin, Texas in 1966, was an especially influential secret newspaper as, follow to historian Abe Peck, it to be the “first undergrounder to represent the participatory democracy, neighborhood organizing and also synthesis of politics and culture that the new Left the the midsixties was trying to develop.”

The Rag: A Rag staffer selling the newspaper in Austin, Texas, in 1966.

The Underground push Syndicate

In mid-1966, the cooperative Underground push Syndicate (UPS) was formed. The UPS enabled member documents to easily reprint content from any of the various other member papers. By 1969, essentially every sizable city or college city in north America boasted at the very least one underground newspaper. Throughout the top years that the underground push phenomenon, about 100 documents were posting at any kind of given time. A UPS roster published in November 1966 detailed 14 underground papers, 11 of lock in the unified States.

Underground files in the Military

There likewise existed an underground push network in ~ the U.S. Military. The GI underground press produced a few hundred titles throughout the Vietnam War. Part were developed by anti-war GI coffeehouses, and many that them to be small, crudely produced, and low-circulation papers. Three or 4 GI underground documents had large-scale, national circulation of more than 20,000 copies, including thousands of duplicates mailed come GIs overseas. These papers were created with the assistance of civilian anti-war activists, and had to be disguised to be sent through the mail right into Vietnam. Soldiers distributing or even possessing them could be topic to harassment, disciplinary action, or arrest.

Many of the papers faced official harassment on a continual basis; local police consistently raided offices, fee editors or writers v drug dues or obscenity, arrested street vendors, and pressured neighborhood printers not to print underground papers.

The beat Generation

The beat Generation was a team of American post-World battle II writers who concerned prominence in the 1950s, including the social phenomena they documented and also inspired. Central elements the Beat society included the trial and error with drugs, different forms of sexuality, interest in Eastern religious beliefs (such together Buddhism), rejection of materialism, and also idealizing exuberant method of expression and also being.

Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (1956), william S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch (1959), and also Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957) are among the ideal known examples of win literature. Both Howl and Naked Lunch came to be the focus of obscenity trials. The publishers winner the trials, however, and also publishing in the United states became more liberalized. The members the the to win Generation emerged a call as new bohemian hedonists who celebrated non-conformity and also spontaneous creativity.

Origin of the Beats

Jack Kerouac presented the expression “Beat Generation” in 1948 to characterize a viewed underground, anti-conformist youth activity in brand-new York. The adjective “beat” can colloquially mean exhausted or win down, but Kerouac expanded the an interpretation to include the connotations upbeat, beatific, and the music association of gift on the beat.

The origins of the beat Generation can be traced come Columbia University, wherein Kerouac, Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, Hal Chase, and also others first met. Classmates Carr and Ginsberg discussed the require for a brand-new vision to against what they regarded as their teachers’ conservative, formalistic literature ideals. Later, in the mid-1950s, the main figures of the to win Generation (with the exemption of Burroughs) finished up living in san Francisco together.

Beatniks and also the win Generation

The ax “beatnik” was coined to stand for the beat Generation and also was a beat on words referring to both the name of the current Russian satellite, Sputnik, and also the to win Generation. The term said that beatniks were much out of the mainstream of society and maybe pro-Communist. The beatnik term stuck and also became the well-known label associated with a new stereotype and even caricature that the Beats. While some of the original Beats embraced the beatnik identity, or at least found the parodies humorous (Ginsberg, for example, appreciated the parody), rather criticized the beatniks together inauthentic posers. Kerouac feared the the spiritual facet of his message had actually been lost and also that numerous were using the beat Generation as an pardon to be senselessly wild.

The beat Generation Lifestyle

The initial members the the beat Generation experimented with a variety of different drugs, indigenous alcohol and also marijuana come LSD and also peyote. Countless were motivated by intellectual interest, believing these drugs could enhance creativity, insight, and also productivity. Plenty of of the key Beat Generation figures were open homosexual or bisexual, including two that the most significant writers, Ginsberg and also Burroughs. Both Ginsberg’s Howl and Burroughs’ Naked Lunch save on computer explicit homosexuality, sex-related content, and also drug use.

The Beats’ influences on western Culture

The phenomenon that the to win Generation had a pervasive affect on west culture. That was affected by, and also in revolve influenced, the sex-related revolution, issues approximately censorship, the demystification of cannabis and also other drugs, the musical development of rock and roll, the spread out of ecological consciousness, and opposition come the military-industrial an equipment civilization.

The end of the Beats and the start of the Hippies

The 1950s Beat movement beliefs and ideologies metamorphosed into the counterculture that the 1960s, accompanied by a change in terminology from “beatnik” come “hippie.” countless of the initial Beats remained energetic participants, notably Allen Ginsberg, who ended up being a fixture of the anti-war movement. Notably, however, Jack Kerouac broke with Ginsberg and also criticized the politically radical protest activities of the 1960s together an pardon to be spiteful.

There to be stylistic differences in between beatniks and hippies—for example, somber colors, dark sunglasses, and goatees gave means to vibrant psychedelic clothing and long hair. The beats were well-known for playing it cool (keeping a short profile), however the hippies came to be known for being cool (displaying your individuality). Past style, there were likewise changes in substance: the Beats often tended to be basically apolitical, yet the hippies became proactively engaged with the polite rights and also anti-war movements.

Counterculture in Theatre

Musical theatre in the 1960s started to diverge indigenous the fairly narrow confines of the 1950s. For example, absent music was supplied in number of Broadway musicals. This trend started with the musical Hair, i beg your pardon featured not just rock music, but additionally nudity and controversial opinions about the Vietnam War, gyeongju relations, and also other social issues. Hair is frequently said to be a product the the hippie counterculture and sexual transformation of the 1960s.

As the struggle for minorities’ civil civil liberties progressed, musical authors were emboldened come write more musicals and also operas that aimed to increase mainstream societal tolerance and also racial harmony. At an early stage works that focused on gyeongju tolerance, despite now recognized to have numerous problematic elements, consisted of Finian’s Rainbow, South Pacific, and also The King and also I. The music West side Story also spoke a message of racial tolerance. Later on, several reflects tackled Jewish subjects and also issues, such as Fiddler top top the Roof. By the end of the 1960s, musicals came to be racially integrated, with black and also white cast members also covering every others’ roles.

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Counterculture in Film

Like newspapers, literature, and theatre, the cinema of the time likewise reflected the attributes of the counterculture. Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider (1969) concentrated on the alters happening in the world. The movie Medium Cool portrayed the 1968 democratic Convention and Chicago police riots, which has actually led come it being labeled together “a combination of cinema-vérité and also political radicalism.” One studio effort to cash in on the hippie tendency was the 1968 film Psych-Out, which portrayed the hippie lifestyle. The music that the era was represented by movies such as 1970’s Woodstock, a documentary that the music festival that the exact same name.