Cultural Rebellion Introduction

The tumultuous years of the 1960s were a time of substantial rejection of the moral and cultural standards of previous generations by the young people of the day. Thus, “the Sixties” has been called the “Counterculture Era.” The Counterculture Era, generally from 1960 through 1975, was characterized by social upheaval—the rejection of parental and governmental authority, the establishment of radical political movements, protests against the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the use of psychedelic and other mind-altering recreational drugs, sexual freedom, and other alternative (“hippie”) lifestyles, investigation of eastern religions, and women’s liberation. (Perone, pp. ix-x, 3-6.) During the 1960s in the U.S., with the backdrop supplied by an unpopular war and racial tension, a Cultural Revolution was blossoming.

The term ‘counterculture’ has been used to refer to “any entity, large or small, that sought to transform the existing political, economic, and cultural models and replace them with its own, often utopian, vision of a ‘new society’.” (Braunstein and Doyle, Imagine Nation: The American Counterculture of the 1960s and 70s, Michals, From Consciousness Expansion to Consciousness Rising, p. 45.) “Although the counterculture was extremely varied, in general, the youth involved…valued community over individualism and peace and harmony over competition and dissension. Members of the counterculture encouraged young men and women to ‘drop out’ of, or reject, a society focused on greed and the exploitation of others and to explore the different, heightened kinds of consciousness that music, drug and sexual experimentation could bring.” (Id., Robert McRuer, Gay Gathering, p. 217)

The ‘counterculture’ was not a real social movement. Rather, it was an inherently unstable collection of attitudes, tendencies, postures, gestures, lifestyles, ideals, visions, hedonistic pleasures, moralisms, negations and affirmations. (Id., Introduction, p.10.) Two major aspects of the Sixties counterculture were “Flower Children” (also called “hippies”) who chose to promote the sexual liberation movement of and feminism/women’s liberation. (Id. pp. 11-13.) There was also the political counterculture of the New Left. (See Id., Doug Rossinow, The Revolution is about Our Lives, pp. 99-124.)