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DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405168908.2010.x


A term developed in the 1960s (see Roszak, 1970) to make sense of the spectacular new youth and student subcultures and, in particular, the American hippie. The term, as Musgrove (1974) points out, had two uses. On the one hand, it described what Richard Neville (1970) called “play power,” a set of ideas, beliefs, and values that opposed the dominant culture (which, in this context, meant capitalism, protestantism, and militarism); counterculturalists valued the spiritual over the material, hedonism over prudence, tolerance over prejudice. “Counterculture” referred, on the other hand, to a group of people, those people who because of their different ideas refused to live in “straight” society and “dropped out” of it. The counterculture thus described both new social practices – drug use, “free” sex, nondirective education, etc. – and the institutions that supported these practices – communes, alternative newspapers and magazines, free schools, “underground” festivals, etc. The counterculture is usually thought to have dissolved in the 1970s, the victim of its own contradictory attitudes (to technology and materialism), its internal differences (about sexual politics or drug (ab)use, for instance), and systematic legal harassment. Nevertheless, its values and, to some extent, its “alternative” institutions live on, whether in the symbolic form of a Grateful Dead concert or in ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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