People Power Week 5: The ‘60s youth and counter-culture movements.


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                                                                                                          Notes on the Youth/Counter-culture movement


1. “New Social Movements” in the ‘60s – introduction/background:

- how new, and how similar to each other?

- power to the grassroots

- anti-convention

- new demands and new forms of organisation

- cultural change – new meanings

- anti-authority, and for autonomy


2. The post-war scene:

- teenagers and consumerism

- consensus politics (the ‘end of ideology’?) – Butskellism

- power of the state – Keynesianism; and of corporations - technostructure

- the consensus questioned – conflict in reality? Northern Ireland, ex-colonies, New Left, corrupt bureaucracies, cold war, consumer culture

- questioning rationality itself: power to the imagination.


3. The variety of movements, and common features:

- civil rights, Vietnam, Socialism/New Left, Hippies and Beatniks, sexual revolution, women’s liberation, students and "May '68" [next week]

- in common: emphasis on ‘culture’, opposition to hierarchy, middle class?, the end of ‘deference’


4. Youth and the Counter-culture:

- ‘peace and love’ a reaction against ‘cold rationality’ that had brought WWII genocide, and drawing on other protest movements

- new values, and influence of Buddhism etc, drugs, flower-power, love-ins, teach-ins

- writers exemplifying the movement: Gary Snyder: personal liberation as feeling rather than theory; William Blake (1757 – 1827): not repressing our emotions; Allen Ginsberg: love; Norman Mailer: the ‘white negro’, existentialism.


5. The meaning(s) of ‘autonomy

6. A new meaning of ‘politics’.


7. Discussion: Thatcherism as the heir to the sixties? Life-style politics a dead end? Anti-globalisation, Occupy (‘space for alternatives’), Avaaz and online activism (‘clicktivism’), Indignados, Podemos, a million masks etc....

William Blake:

“Everything that lives is holy” … “The hours of folly are measured by the clock; but the hours of wisdom no clock can measure.” … “Jesus was all virtue, and acted from impulse, not from rules”


“… the Loom of Locke whose Woof rages dire

Wash’d by the Water-Wheels of Newton; black the cloth

In heavy wreathes folds over every Nation; cruel Works

Of many Wheels I view, wheel without wheel, with cogs tyrannic

Moving by compulsion each other: not as those in Eden, which

Wheel within wheel in freedom revolve in harmony & peace.”


Allen Ginsberg:

“The weight of the world

          is love.

Under the burden

of solitude,

under the burden

          of dissatisfaction


the weight,

the weight we carry

          is love….”


Norman Mailer:

“Probably, we will never be able to determine the psychic havoc of the concentration camps and the atom bomb upon the unconscious mind of almost everyone alive in these years. For the first time in civilized history, perhaps for the first time in all of history, we have been forced to live with the suppressed knowledge that… we might still be doomed to die as a cipher in some vast statistical operation in which our teeth would be counted, and our hair would be saved, but our death would be unknown, unhonored, and unremarked” …


“It is on this bleak scene that a phenomenon has appeared: the American existentialist – the hipster, the man who knows… that the only life-giving answer is to accept the terms of death, to live with death as immediate danger, to divorce oneself from society, to exist without roots, to set out on that uncharted journey into the rebellious imperatives of the self…”