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Monday, January 11, 2010

Counterculture Doesn't Just Mean Hippie

I recently became aware that I forgot to write the following, from my concept paper, in my project description. I will edit my project page with this when I can:

"This study is using an expanded description of the counterculture, different from the common use of the term. The typical practice is to conflate counterculture and hippie. In this study counterculture will mean the children of the 60s era who come from a wide range of experimental backgrounds, including the new left, and new religions. There is a precedent for this. Theodore Roszak, who coined the term “counterculture,” writes in his book The Making of a Counterculture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition “We grasp the underlying unity of the counter cultural variety, then, if we see beat-hip bohemianism as an effort to work out the personality structure and total life style that follow from New Left social criticism. At their best, these young bohemians are the would-be utopian pioneers of the world that lies beyond intellectual rejection of the Great Society” (66). The cultural bohemians who become known as hippies spring from a time of idealism that includes utopian views spawned by New Left thinkers.

Years later, in a 2004 postscript to the 1981 book The Survival of a Counterculture: Ideological Work and Everyday Life Among Rural Communards, Bennet M. Berger writes “Citing a distinction between ‘cultural’ and ‘political’ rebels is not entirely adequate, in part because some Hippies had New Left sympathies and participated in their protest actions, and some partisans of the New Left looked and acted like Hippies when they were not on the barricades or marching in protest”(xii). Though he later states, “their fundamental differences eventually split them apart” (xii), this study will show that the effects of the experimental lives of this larger expanded group on their children prove them to be closer together than current analysis claims.

John Rothchild and Susan Wolf also initially echo this definition of counterculture by visiting all of the children of these various subgroups, New Left, New Religions, and Hippies, in their journey to write their book The Children of the Counterculture: How the Life-style of America’s Flower Children Has Affected an Even Younger Generation. They conclude that only the hippie communes hold an authenticity that can be labeled truly counterculture. “If there can be a new child only to the degree that there is a new parent, then we wanted to meet people who were raising their unconscious, who were fighting the invisible mother and the deeper American instincts that had survived the Red Family and its revolution” (52). Their bias of authenticity could be linked to their own preoccupation with legitimacy. Throughout the book, they compare their own children to the many counterculture children they observe. They describe their children as typical whiny American kids when compared to the rural commune kids (Rothchild 7). Yet their own children are allowed to smoke marijuana at the age of four and six, are living in a van with their parents, and traveling around the country visiting communes and experimental communities.

Later writings have echoed Rothchild and Wolf in proclaiming an ideological split between hippies, left and new religions that was too broad to reconcile Roszak’s original stance that the counterculture were people creating lifestyles purposely actualizing new left values. The splitting of these groups led to analysis that limited the potential to see that all of the children in these groups, as individuals, were experiencing alternative lifestyles that later confirmed them as permanent outsiders to the “straight” world in similar ways. While in the short sighted view of 1976 only the most extreme cases of children in rural communes could be seen to have a true counterculture experience, now that the children are adults a much larger body of people can be defined as significantly different from the “norm” and connected to each other by the experiments of the 1960s."

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