The American counterculture refers to the duration between 1964-1972 when the norms of the 1950s were mostly rejected through youth.

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Key Takeaways

Key PointsA counterculture developed in the United claims in the late 1960s, lasting from about 1964 come 1972, and coinciding v America’s involvement in Vietnam. Counterculture youth rubbish the cultural standards of their parents, especially with respect to gyeongju segregation, the Vietnam War, sexual mores, women’s rights, and also materialism.Hippies to be the largest countercultural classification, and also were made up of greatly white members of the center class.The counterculture movement separated the country. To some, it reflect American ideals of totally free speech, equality, and world peace; while to others, it reflected a self-indulgent and unpatriotic assault on America’s ethical order. In an initiative to quell the movement, federal government authorities prohibition the psychedelic drug LSD, minimal political gatherings, and also tried come enforce bans ~ above what they thought about obscenity in books, music, theater, and other media. Several things caused the decline of the movement in the beforehand 1970s, including far-ranging progress ~ above the purposes of the movement and rising economic troubles that forced countless former hippies to count on mainstream institutions.Key Termsquash: To loss forcibly.mores: A term supplied to refer to social standards that are widely observed and also are considered to have better moral significance than others.counterculture: Any culture whose values and lifestyles are opposed to those that the established mainstream culture.stagflation: Inflation add by stagnant growth, unemployment, or recession.

The development of the Counterculture

A counterculture arisen in the United says in the late 1960s, lasting from roughly 1964 come 1972, and coinciding v America’s authorized in Vietnam. The was characterized by the denial of traditional social norms—in this case, the norms of the 1950s. The counterculture youth rejected the cultural standards of your 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 defined by young human being breaking far from the traditional society of the 1950s.

As the 1960s progressed, prevalent tensions developed in American society that often tended to circulation along generational lines about the war in Vietnam, gyeongju relations, sexual mores, women’s rights, timeless modes of authority, and also a materialist interpretation of the American Dream. Thanks to widespread economic prosperity, white, middle-class youth—who consisted of the bulk of the counterculture—had sufficient leisure time to revolve their attention to society issues.

Vietnam battle Protest: The counterculture of the 1960s was significant by a farming distrust the government, which had anti-war protests, such as the one shown in this picture.

Ideals and also Interests

Unconventional appearance, music, drugs, communitarian experiments, and sexual liberation to be hallmarks of the 1960s counterculture, many of whose members to be white, middle-class, young Americans. Hippies became the largest countercultural team in the united States. The counterculture reached its optimal in the 1967 “Summer that Love,” as soon as thousands of young human being flocked come the Haight-Ashbury ar of mountain Francisco. The counterculture lifestyle integrated many that the ideals that the time, including peace, love, harmony, music, and mysticism. Meditation, yoga, and psychedelic drugs to be often taken on as routes to broadening one’s consciousness. Spiritually, the counterculture consisted of interest in astrology, the ax “Age that Aquarius,” and also knowing people’s astrological signs.


The tranquility Sign: The tranquility sign ended up being a significant symbol that the counterculture the the 1960s.


Rejection of mainstream society was ideal embodied in the new genres the psychedelic absent music, pop-art, and new explorations in spirituality. Musicians who exemplified this era incorporate The Beatles, The thankful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The roll Stones, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and Pink Floyd. New forms of musical presentation additionally played a key role in dispersing the counterculture, mainly huge outdoor rock festivals. The climactic live statement of this arisen from respectable 15-18, 1969, through the wooden storm Music Festival organized in Bethel, new York. Throughout this weekend festival, 32 that rock and also psychedelic rock’s most famous acts carry out live outdoors come an audience of half a million people. Countercultural sentiments were expressed in track lyrics and also popular sayings that the period, such together “do your own thing”; “turn on, track in, fall out”; “whatever transforms you on”; “eight mile high”; “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll”; and “light mine fire.” 

Cultural Divisions and also the please of the Movement

The counterculture movement separated the country. To some Americans, the activity reflected American ideals of cost-free speech, equality, world peace, and the pursuit of happiness. Come others, it reflect a self-indulgent, pointlessly rebellious, unpatriotic, and destructive attack on America’s timeless moral order. In an initiative to quash the movement, federal government authorities banned the psychedelic medicine LSD, minimal political gatherings, and also tried to enforce bans on what they taken into consideration obscenity in books, music, theater, and also other media. 

Ultimately, the counterculture broke down on that own roughly 1973. Two main reasons room cited for the collapse. First, the most well-known of the movement’s political purposes (civil rights, polite liberties, gender equality, environmentalism, and the finish of the Vietnam War) had made far-ranging gains, and its most renowned social features (particularly a “live-and-let-live” mentality in personal lifestyles; i.e., the “sexual revolution”) were mostly co-opted by tendency society. Second, a decline of idealism and hedonism arisen as countless notable counterculture figures died, and the rest settled into mainstream society to begin their very own families. The “magic economy” of the 1960s gave method to the stagflation that the 1970s, and many middle-class american no longer had the deluxe of living outside of standard social institutions. 

The counterculture, however, proceeds to affect social movements, art, music, and culture today, and the post-1973 mainstream culture has been in many methods a hybrid the the 1960s establishment and also counterculture—seen as the best (or the worst) that both worlds.

Theatre and Novels

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

Learning Objectives

Examine the expression of countercultural values in media, such as newspapers and also theatre

Key Takeaways

Key PointsThe counterculture that the 1960s provided rise to several independent or underground papers whose publishers were regularly harassed by police. The ax “underground newspaper” generally refers to an elevation newspaper focusing on unpopular themes or counterculture issues. Typically, these often tend to it is in politically come the left or much left.The eight in the underground press was made useful by the access of cheap balance out printing, which made it possible to print a few thousand copies of a small tabloid paper for a couple of hundred dollars. The Beats were a group of post-World war II American writers who concerned prominence in the 1950s.Central aspects of Beat culture included experimentation with drugs, different forms the sexuality, an interest in eastern religion, a rejection of materialism, and the idealizing of exuberant method of expression and also being. Music theatre in the 1960s began to diverge native the relatively narrow boundaries of the 1950s; because that example, the music Hair was the very first of numerous musicals to usage rock music.Like newspapers and theatre, the cinema of the time likewise reflected the characteristics of the counterculture.Key TermsThe Establishment: A term provided to describe a visible leading group or elite that holds power or authority in a nation.counterculture: Any culture whose values and lifestyles are opposed to those of the created mainstream culture, specifically to west culture.Offset Printing: A generally used printing technique in i beg your pardon the inked image is moved from a plate come a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface.

Counterculture in Literature: Underground push in the 1960s

In the U.S., the hatchet “underground newspaper” normally refers come an elevation newspaper concentrating on unpopular themes or counterculture issues. Typically, these tend to it is in politically come the left or far left. The hatchet most regularly refers to publications of the period 1965-1973, once an secret newspaper craze swept the country. This publications came to be the voice of the rising brand-new Left and the hippie/psychedelic/rock and also roll counterculture of the 1960s in America; castle were additionally a focal allude of opposition come the Vietnam War and also the draft. Underground papers sprang up in many cities and college towns, serving to define and communicate the selection of phenomena that characterized the counterculture: radical political opposition come “The Establishment”; vibrant experimental (and often clearly drug-influenced) approaches to art, music, and cinema; and also uninhibited indulgence in sex and drugs together a price of freedom.

The eight in the underground press was made valuable by the access of cheap offset printing, which made it possible to publish a couple of thousand copies of a small tabloid file for a few hundred dollars. Document was cheap, and many printing firms roughly the nation had over-expanded during the 1950s, leaving them with excess capacity on their offset net presses, which could be negotiated at cheap rates.

One of the very first underground papers 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 specifically influential underground newspaper as, follow to historian Abe Peck, it to be the “first undergrounder to stand for the participatory democracy, ar organizing and synthesis of national politics and society that the new Left the the midsixties was trying to develop.”

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

The Underground push Syndicate

In mid-1966, the participating Underground press Syndicate (UPS) was formed. The UPS permitted member files to openly reprint contents from any of the various other member papers. Through 1969, practically every sizable city or college town in phibìc America boasted at least one secret newspaper. During the top years that the underground press phenomenon, about 100 papers were publishing at any type of given time. A UPS roster released in November 1966 listed 14 secret papers, 11 of lock in the joined States.

Underground documents in the Military

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

Many that the papers challenged official harassment on a continual basis; neighborhood police consistently raided offices, charged editors or writers through drug dues or obscenity, arrested street vendors, and also pressured local printers not to publish underground papers.

The to win Generation

The win Generation was a group of American post-World battle II writers who pertained to prominence in the 1950s, including the social phenomena castle documented and inspired. Main elements the Beat society included the experimentation with drugs, different forms of sexuality, attention in Eastern religious beliefs (such together Buddhism), rejection of materialism, and also idealizing exuberant way 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 amongst the finest known examples of to win literature. Both Howl and Naked Lunch became the emphasis of obscenity trials. The publishers won the trials, however, and publishing in the United states became more liberalized. The members of the win Generation arisen a reputation as brand-new bohemian hedonists who commemorated non-conformity and spontaneous creativity.

Origin of the Beats

Jack Kerouac presented the phrase “Beat Generation” in 1948 come characterize a regarded underground, anti-conformist youth activity in brand-new York. The adjective “beat” could colloquially mean exhausted or beaten down, however Kerouac expanded the meaning to incorporate the connotations upbeat, beatific, and also the musical association of being on the beat.

The origins of the win Generation can be traced come Columbia University, whereby Kerouac, Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, Hal Chase, and also others an initial met. Classmates Carr and Ginsberg discussed the require for a new vision to counteract what they perceived as your teachers’ conservative, formalistic literature ideals. Later, in the mid-1950s, the central figures that the win Generation (with the exception of Burroughs) finished up living in san Francisco together.

Beatniks and also the win Generation

The term “beatnik” was coined to represent the to win Generation and also was a pat on words introduce to both the name of the current Russian satellite, Sputnik, and also the win Generation. The term argued that beatniks were far out of the tendency of society and probably pro-Communist. The beatnik ax stuck and became the popular label connected with a brand-new stereotype and even caricature that the Beats. While some of the initial Beats taken on the beatnik identity, or in ~ least uncovered the parodies feeling (Ginsberg, for example, appreciated the parody), others criticized the beatniks as inauthentic posers. Kerouac feared that the spiritual aspect of his message had actually been lost and that numerous were making use of the beat Generation together an forgive to be senselessly wild.

The beat Generation Lifestyle

The initial members the the win Generation experimented v a number of different drugs, from alcohol and also marijuana to LSD and also peyote. Many were motivated by pundit interest, believing these drugs might enhance creativity, insight, and also productivity. Plenty of of the vital Beat Generation numbers were openly homosexual or bisexual, consisting of two of the most influential writers, Ginsberg and Burroughs. Both Ginsberg’s Howl and also Burroughs’ Naked Lunch contain explicit homosexuality, sexual content, and also drug use.

The Beats’ impacts on western Culture

The phenomenon the the win Generation had a pervasive influence on western culture. It was affected by, and also in turn influenced, the sex-related revolution, issues about censorship, the demystification that cannabis and also other drugs, the musical evolution of rock and roll, the spread of eco-friendly consciousness, and opposition to the military-industrial maker civilization.

The end of the Beats and the start of the Hippies

The 1950s Beat movement beliefs and ideologies metamorphosed right into the counterculture the the 1960s, attach by a transition in terminology native “beatnik” to “hippie.” numerous of the initial Beats remained active participants, notably Allen Ginsberg, who came to be a fixture of the anti-war movement. Notably, however, Jack Kerouac broke with Ginsberg and criticized the politically radical protest motions of the 1960s together an excuse to be spiteful.

There to be stylistic differences in between beatniks and hippies—for example, somber colors, dark sunglasses, and goatees gave means to vivid psychedelic clothing and long hair. The to win were recognized for play it cool (keeping a short profile), yet the hippies came to be known because that being cool (displaying their individuality). Beyond style, over there were likewise changes in substance: the Beats often tended to be essentially apolitical, yet the hippies became proactively engaged v the civil rights and also anti-war movements.

Counterculture in Theatre

Musical theatre in the 1960s began to diverge native the reasonably narrow confines of the 1950s. Because that example, rock music was provided in numerous Broadway musicals. This trend began with the musical Hair, i m sorry featured not only rock music, but also nudity and controversial opinions around the Vietnam War, race relations, and other society issues. Hair is regularly said to it is in a product of the hippie counterculture and also sexual revolution of the 1960s.

As the battle for minorities’ civil rights progressed, musical authors were emboldened to write an ext musicals and operas the aimed to expand mainstream societal tolerance and also racial harmony. Early on works that concentrated on gyeongju tolerance, though now known to have many problematic elements, consisted of Finian’s Rainbow, South Pacific, and The King and I. The musical West side Story also spoke a article of racial tolerance. Later on on, several mirrors tackled Jewish subjects and issues, such together Fiddler top top the Roof. Through the finish of the 1960s, musicals came to be racially integrated, v black and also white cast members also covering every others’ roles.

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Counterculture in Film

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