The American counterculture refers to the period between 1964-1972 when the norms of the 1950s were greatly rejected by youth.

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Key Takeaways

Key PointsA counterculture emerged in the United claims in the so late 1960s, lasting from approximately 1964 come 1972, and also coinciding with America’s joining in Vietnam. Counterculture youth garbage the social standards of your parents, especially with respect to gyeongju segregation, the Vietnam War, sex-related mores, women’s rights, and materialism.Hippies to be the largest countercultural classification, and also were consisted of of mainly white members the the middle class.The counterculture movement separated the country. To some, it reflected American ideals of totally free speech, equality, and world peace; while to others, it reflected a self-indulgent and also unpatriotic assault on America’s moral order. In an effort to quell the movement, government authorities banned the psychedelic medicine LSD, limited political gatherings, and also tried come enforce bans top top what they thought about obscenity in books, music, theater, and other media. Several things resulted in the decrease of the movement in the beforehand 1970s, including significant progress ~ above the objectives of the movement and also rising financial troubles the forced many former hippies to rely on mainstream institutions.Key Termsquash: To defeat forcibly.mores: A term supplied to refer to social norms that space widely observed and also are thought about to have higher moral significance than others.counterculture: Any culture whose values and also lifestyles are opposed come those of the developed mainstream culture.stagflation: Inflation add by stagnant growth, unemployment, or recession.

The introduction of the Counterculture

A counterculture occurred in the United states in the so late 1960s, lasting from approximately 1964 come 1972, and also coinciding through America’s authorized in Vietnam. That was characterized by the denial of traditional social norms—in this case, the standards of the 1950s. The counterculture youth garbage the cultural standards of your parents, specifically about racial segregation and also initial widespread support for the Vietnam War.

Woodstock Youth: This photo was taken near the woodstock Music Festival in August, 1969. The counterculture in the 1960s was identified by young world breaking away from the traditional society of the 1950s.

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

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

Ideals and Interests

Unconventional appearance, music, drugs, communitarian experiments, and sexual liberation were hallmarks that the 1960s counterculture, most of who members to be white, middle-class, young Americans. Hippies came to be the biggest countercultural group in the unified States. The counterculture got to its top in the 1967 “Summer the Love,” when thousands the young civilization flocked come the Haight-Ashbury ar of san Francisco. The counterculture lifestyle incorporated many the the ideals of the time, including peace, love, harmony, music, and mysticism. Meditation, yoga, and psychedelic drugs were often embraced as paths to expanding one’s consciousness. Spiritually, the counterculture had interest in astrology, the term “Age that Aquarius,” and also knowing people’s astrological signs.


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


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

Cultural Divisions and the please of the Movement

The counterculture movement divided the country. To part Americans, the motion reflected American ideals of cost-free speech, equality, world peace, and also the search of happiness. To others, it reflect a self-indulgent, pointlessly rebellious, unpatriotic, and destructive attack on America’s classic 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 thought about obscenity in books, music, theater, and also other media. 

Ultimately, the counterculture collapsed on that is own around 1973. Two primary reasons space cited because that the collapse. First, the most well-known of the movement’s political objectives (civil rights, polite liberties, gender equality, environmentalism, and also the end of the Vietnam War) had actually made far-ranging gains, and its most famous social attributes (particularly a “live-and-let-live” mentality in an individual lifestyles; i.e., the “sexual revolution”) were mostly co-opted by mainstream society. Second, a decline of idealism and hedonism arisen as countless notable counterculture figures died, and also the rest cleared up into mainstream culture to start their very own families. The “magic economy” that the 1960s gave means to the stagflation that the 1970s, and many middle-class americans no longer had actually the deluxe of living exterior of conventional social institutions. 

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

Theatre and also Novels

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

Learning Objectives

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

Key Takeaways

Key PointsThe counterculture that the 1960s gave rise to several independent or underground newspapers whose publishers were frequently harassed through police. The hatchet “underground newspaper” generally refers come an live independence newspaper concentrating on unpopular themes or counterculture issues. Typically, these often tend to it is in politically to the left or much left.The boom in the underground press was made valuable by the accessibility of cheap offset printing, which make it feasible to print a few thousand duplicates of a little tabloid file for a couple of hundred dollars. The Beats were a group of post-World war II American authors who concerned prominence in the 1950s.Central aspects of Beat culture included experimentation with drugs, different forms the sexuality, an attention in east religion, a denial of materialism, and the idealizing the exuberant way of expression and also being. Musical theatre in the 1960s started to diverge native the fairly narrow confines of the 1950s; for example, the musical Hair was the an initial of plenty of musicals to usage rock music.Like newspapers and theatre, the cinema that the time additionally reflected the attributes of the counterculture.Key TermsThe Establishment: A term used to describe a visible dominant group or elite that holds strength or authority in a nation.counterculture: Any society whose values and also lifestyles room opposed to those of the established mainstream culture, especially to west culture.Offset Printing: A typically used printing technique in i beg your pardon the inked photo is transferred from a plate to a rubber blanket, climate to the printing surface.

Counterculture in Literature: Underground push in the 1960s

In the U.S., the hatchet “underground newspaper” generally refers come an live independence newspaper focusing on unpopular themes or counterculture issues. Typically, these often tend to be politically come the left or far left. The term most regularly refers to publications of the duration 1965-1973, once an underground newspaper craze brushed up the country. This publications became the voice that the rising new Left and the hippie/psychedelic/rock and roll counterculture the the 1960s in America; castle were also a focal suggest of opposition to the Vietnam War and also the draft. Underground papers sprang increase in most cities and college towns, offer to define and also communicate the selection of phenomena that characterized the counterculture: radical politics opposition to “The Establishment”; vivid experimental (and often clearly drug-influenced) approaches to art, music, and also cinema; and also uninhibited indulgence in sex and also drugs together a symbol of freedom.

The boom in the underground press was made helpful by the accessibility of cheap offset printing, which do it feasible to publish a few thousand duplicates of a little tabloid record for a couple of hundred dollars. Document was cheap, and many printing firms about the nation had over-expanded during the 1950s, leaving them with excess volume on your offset internet presses, which might be negotiated at cheap rates.

One that the very first underground papers of the 1960s was the Los Angeles cost-free Press, founded in 1964 and very first published in 1965. The Rag, founded in Austin, Texas in 1966, was particularly influential underground newspaper as, follow to historian Abe Peck, it to be the “first undergrounder to stand for the participatory democracy, community organizing and also synthesis of politics and culture that the new Left that the midsixties was trying to develop.”

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

The Underground push Syndicate

In mid-1966, the participating Underground press Syndicate (UPS) to be formed. The UPS permitted member papers to openly reprint contents from any of the various other member papers. Through 1969, basically every sizable city or college city in phibìc America boasted at least one secret newspaper. During the peak years the the underground press phenomenon, around 100 files were publishing at any type of given time. A UPS roster released in November 1966 noted 14 underground papers, 11 of them in the unified States.

Underground files in the Military

There additionally existed one underground push network within the U.S. Military. The GI secret press created a couple of hundred titles during the Vietnam War. Part were created by anti-war GI coffeehouses, and also many the them to be small, crudely produced, and low-circulation papers. Three or 4 GI underground papers had large-scale, national distribution of more than 20,000 copies, consisting of thousands of duplicates mailed to GIs overseas. These records were developed with the assistance of civilian anti-war activists, and also had to it is in disguised come be sent out through the mail into Vietnam. Soldiers distributing or even possessing them can be subject to harassment, disciplinary action, or arrest.

Many of the papers challenged official harassment on a continuous basis; neighborhood police continuously raided offices, fee editors or writers with drug charges or obscenity, arrested street vendors, and also pressured regional printers no to print underground papers.

The beat Generation

The to win Generation to be a group of American post-World war II writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, consisting of the cultural phenomena they documented and also inspired. Main elements that Beat culture included the experimentation with drugs, alternate forms of sexuality, interest in Eastern faiths (such as 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 best known examples of beat literature. Both Howl and Naked Lunch ended up being the focus of obscenity trials. The publishers won the trials, however, and publishing in the United states became much more liberalized. The members of the beat Generation emerged a reputation as brand-new bohemian hedonists who commemorated non-conformity and also spontaneous creativity.

Origin the the Beats

Jack Kerouac presented the phrase “Beat Generation” in 1948 come characterize a perceived underground, anti-conformist youth activity in new York. The adjective “beat” can colloquially mean exhausted or win down, however Kerouac broadened the meaning to encompass the connotations upbeat, beatific, and the musical association of gift on the beat.

The origins of the to win Generation can be traced to Columbia University, wherein Kerouac, Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, Hal Chase, and others first met. Classmates Carr and also Ginsberg discussed the need for a new vision to counteract what they viewed as your teachers’ conservative, formalistic literary ideals. Later, in the mid-1950s, the main figures the the beat Generation (with the exemption of Burroughs) ended up living in mountain Francisco together.

Beatniks and the beat Generation

The hatchet “beatnik” was coined to stand for the win Generation and was a pat on words introduce to both the surname of the recent Russian satellite, Sputnik, and the beat Generation. The term suggested that beatniks were far out that the mainstream of culture and maybe pro-Communist. The beatnik hatchet stuck and also became the renowned label connected with a new stereotype and also even caricature the the Beats. While few of the initial Beats adopted the beatnik identity, or in ~ least found the parodies feeling (Ginsberg, for example, evaluate the parody), rather criticized the beatniks as inauthentic posers. Kerouac feared the the spiritual element of his message had actually been lost and also that countless were using the to win Generation together an excuse to it is in senselessly wild.

The to win Generation Lifestyle

The initial members the the to win Generation experimented with a variety of different drugs, native alcohol and marijuana to LSD and also peyote. Many were inspired by pundit interest, believing these drugs might enhance creativity, insight, and also productivity. Many of the crucial Beat Generation figures were openly homosexual or bisexual, consisting of two of the most significant writers, Ginsberg and also Burroughs. Both Ginsberg’s Howl and Burroughs’ Naked Lunch save explicit homosexuality, sex-related content, and drug use.

The Beats’ impacts on western Culture

The phenomenon the the to win Generation had a pervasive influence on west culture. That was affected by, and also in revolve influenced, the sexual revolution, issues approximately censorship, the demystification the cannabis and other drugs, the musical evolution of rock and also roll, the spread out of eco-friendly consciousness, and also opposition come the military-industrial maker civilization.

The finish of the Beats and the beginning of the Hippies

The 1950s Beat movement beliefs and also ideologies metamorphosed into the counterculture that the 1960s, attach by a shift in terminology native “beatnik” come “hippie.” plenty of of the initial Beats remained active participants, significantly Allen Ginsberg, who became a fixture of the anti-war movement. Notably, however, Jack Kerouac damaged with Ginsberg and criticized the politically radical protest activities of the 1960s together an forgive to be spiteful.

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

Counterculture in Theatre

Musical theatre in the 1960s began to diverge indigenous the fairly narrow boundaries of the 1950s. For example, rock music was used in numerous Broadway musicals. This trend started with the musical Hair, which featured not just rock music, but also nudity and controversial opinions around the Vietnam War, race relations, and also other social issues. Hair is often said to it is in a product the the hippie counterculture and sexual transformation of the 1960s.

As the battle for minorities’ civil civil liberties progressed, musical authors were emboldened come write much more musicals and operas the aimed to broaden mainstream societal tolerance and racial harmony. Beforehand works that concentrated on racial tolerance, despite now well-known to have countless problematic elements, consisted of Finian’s Rainbow, South Pacific, and also The King and also I. The musical West side Story also spoke a post of gyeongju tolerance. Later on, several mirrors tackled Jewish subjects and issues, such as Fiddler ~ above the Roof. Through the end of the 1960s, musicals came to be racially integrated, through black and also white cast members even covering every others’ roles.

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Counterculture in Film

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