The Counterculture Impact

Topics: Whole Earth Catalog, Counterculture, Stewart Brand Pages: 18 (6820 words) Published: February 5, 2013
Tony Nguyen
            The 1960s or "Sixties" were a highly influential decade for American culture.  The anti-war movement, the new left, feminism, civil rights movement, and social revolution were among the notable movements at the time which had a drastic effect on American society. But why was there the need for movements in the first place? The outcry for reformation indicated that something was wrong with the political and social structure.             The Counterculture revolution was the direct result of built in frustration and dissatisfaction of the children living in the 1950s, a decade known for the dominant conformity. The fifties were characterized by nuclear war scares, cubicle offices, suburban homes, nuclear families, and TV dinners. William H. Whyte captured the essence of the postwar decade in his book The Organization Man. Whyte argues that the experience of the great depression and other practical concerns of the time were manipulated by Capitalist Corporation to create a social culture to benefit them. [1]  This social culture sucked the life out of leadership and passion of the workers to create an obedient workforce. Capitalist primary intentions were to advocate community value of togetherness and belongingness. There was no sense of individuality among the people, only the identity of the whole.  Going against the norm would leave the individual susceptible to ostracization not only by their community but also their family. The generation of the fifties felt the deep internal alienation and separation that the social culture produced. In Politics of Authenticity, Doug Rossinow discussed the dramatic effects of post-war society’s “estrangement” on individuals.[2] He believed this estrangement created an abstract anxiety for individuals leaving them with no sense of power. Consequently there was a prevailing desire to make contact with the authentic life, ultimately liberating oneself. Rossinow stated,  "The sense of anxiety and the need to confront it, the preference for the concrete over the abstract, the importance of decision and personal responsibility, the attractiveness of situational ethics, the desire for a vital life, and, above all, the search for a life of authenticity in touch with the 'really real’” [3] The estranged ones felt detached from the real world which had been infected by the corporate monster and all its diluted commodities and false representation. They wanted to get in touch with something real with substance that represented their individual needs while disregarding what society had to say. As a result, the counterculture "Hippies" had a great desire to transcend from the norms and influences of their parent’s society. They were eager to find new ways to fully express their individuality and authentic self.  Hippies are associated with their unique style and clothes, using psychedelic drugs, unisex long hair, communes and their sexual promiscuity.   This new wave of culture inherently led to different forms of expression in music, clothing, food, and overall lifestyle. Their new path led to other possible opportunities, particularly in the consumer market where ambitious entrepreneurs could tap in to new markets and utilize the force of the movement for their own gains. So the question that I hope to answer is: Did hippie businesses stay true to their root principle of expressing individuality in opposition to a larger conformist society or did they sell out to the capitalism?               Several authors have weighed in on this topic.  The first source was Sam Brinkley’s Cosmic Profit: Countercultural Commerce and the Problem of Trust in American Marketing. Brinkley compared large corporations to the smaller counterculture businesses. Additionally, he discussed how mass market sought to co-opt with counterculture and their ideology in order to adapt to the changing market. The second source was Thomas Frank’s book Conquest of Cool. Frank discussed the impact of the...
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