What is Counter Culture and How it is Different from 60s?
Counter culture. The idea, that a group of people can create a culture that runs counter to (and even directly opposes) the dominant mainstream culture, has been with us for centuries. It wasn’t until the global spread of the hippie counter culture in the 1960s that we started to see the power and prevalence of these concepts in the modern world.
Counterculture of the 1960s
In the late 1960s, America experienced a counterculture during the Vietnam War, lasting from 1964 to 1972. During this time, conventional social norms-in this case, those of the 1950s-were rejected. Counterculture youth reject the social ideals of their parents, notably segregation and early widespread support of the Vietnam War.
The Rise of the Counterculture Movement
The 1960s counterculture was characterized by unconventional appearance, music, drugs, communitarian experiments, and sexual liberation. United States hippies grew into the largest counterculture group. Thousands of young people flocked to the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco during the 1967 “Summer of Love.” Peace, love, harmony, music, and mysticism all played a role in the counterculture lifestyle. People often embraced meditation, yoga, and psychedelic drugs as means of expanding their consciousness. The counterculture was spiritually influenced by astrology, the term “Age of Aquarius,” and understanding people’s zodiacal signs.
Music in the 1960s
The new genres of psychedelic rock music, pop art, and spiritual explorations best embodied the rejection of mainstream culture. Musicians associated with this era include The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and Pink Floyd. As well as new forms of musical presentation, outdoor rock festivals played a vital role in spreading the counterculture.
How CounterCulture is Different Now?
Since the sixties and the “Summer of Love” of 1967, counter culture and even its very concept have changed radically. Here are just three ways that these cultures have changed.
Counterculture has Become More Inclusive
There is a certain audaciousness to the term the “Summer of Love,” considering it was associated with widespread “peace and love” at a time when the civil rights movement was still being fiercely fought across America. The great divide between these movements brings up the question of which one was truly the counter culture? Was it the people at a music festival or was it the people in the streets fighting for the rights of themselves and marginalized people? Also, why is there such a divide between these two movements?
One could argue that the segregation that you see in the counter culture movements of the sixties has decreased in recent years. In fact, the rise of funk, Pride, and hip-hop has created counter-culture movements that are explicitly created by and for people of many different backgrounds. Many of the protests today are aware of including marginalized voices, too, including those from different racial groups, sexual identities, and more.
Counterculture has Fractured
Of course, whenever you talk about something happening in the sixties and now, you have to account for the widespread use of the internet. Chat rooms and social media have allowed for worldwide connection and collaboration between people of similar mindsets, and, while this has created a sense of commonality, it has also fractured any concept of the counter culture. You can belong to nearly infinite subsets of major counter-culture ideas online, and those factions can be fiercely divided. So while these movements have become more inclusive, the internet has divided them at the same time.
Counter Culture has Become More Profitable
Perhaps there is no better example of how quickly the concept of a counter-culture can be turned for a profit than the final episode of Mad Men, the acclaimed drama about advertising executives in the 1960s. In the final scenes (spoilers ahead), ad wunderkind Don Draper sits in meditation surrounded by hippies somewhere in California. The shot slowly fades to the “I’d Like to Buy a World a Coke” advertisement that became so popular shortly after the time in the show.
Cynically, many of the counter-culture concepts get easily absorbed into the mainstream. It has become harder and harder to exist outside of it, but it also means that many of these movements can use their popularity to sustain themselves. Depending on how you look at it, these changes have made the counter-culture easier to sustain, but perhaps more vulnerable to losing its bite.
So what happened to the counter-culture since the sixties? It depends on your definition of the term, but it is wildly different and deployed in completely different ways. That said, for those who want to run outside the mainstream, there are plenty of ways to do it.
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