Cultural Movements: The Hippie Movement (United States, 1960s-70s)


Figure 1.--This photo was taken at an unidentified hippy camp during the late-1960s or early 70s. Some hippy groups formed communes of varying durration. A few of these comunes still exist today, but for the most part they are a far departure from the early communes. The membership is older and more stable and dug usage is less common. And they are finacially self supporting.

The Hippy movement developed in America during the 1960s. It was a reaction to the America of the 1950s when the primary focus was on hard work and achieving the American dream. The Hippy movement rejected what every button-down American embraced. The Hippies were not interested in studying or in preparing themselves for careers. Droping out and tuning into drugs was the order of the day. There were also fashion trends embraced by the hippies. Young men began wearing long hair and growing beards. Young women dressed in peasants dresses. Popular for both of course weretattered jeans. Both took to psychedelic colors. Hippy clothing had a major impact on popular fashions. The Hippies not only dressed differently and wore long hair, they attempted to drop out of society. To many Americans they seemed dirty and disrespectful of their parents and American society as whole. Americans after World War II, thanks to the GI Bill, for the first time had generally open access to university studies and professionsal careers. Hippies rejected the new opportunities. They dropped out of university and instead tried to form rock bands and live in communes. Some of the most adventuresome took often to exotic locations like India and Nepal. They in particular objected to the Vietnam War. The Hippy movement has been the subject of exhaustive study. There were positive aspects, perhsaps the most important was the relaxed attitudes toward race. And the adoption of non-violence aid the Civil Rights movement. Other aspects are still being debated today, such as relaxed attitudes toward sex. Key to the Hippie life style was drugs. Hippies believed that enlightenment and great music came not through tiresome study, but taking drugs. While initially an American movement, the Hippies gradually influenced other counties as well, especially Europe.

The 1950s

The 1950s were a time of affluence in contrast to the preceeding two decades. The 1930s had been a disater for many Americans as a result of the Depression. Unemployment rose and jobs were very hard to find. Than their was the trevails of World war II. After the War, the United States was one of the few combatant countries that emerged undamaged and stronger than before the War. Americans after World War II, especially working-class Americans thanks to the GI Bill, for the first time had generally open access to university studies and professionsal careers. The moddle-class broadened considerably. And even high-school graduates could earn good libvings in factories. Their children thus grew up in middle-clas affluence, knowing nothing of what their parents went through. Most American teens in the 50s had not only the basic neccesities, but unrivaled material wealth. They had nice wardrobes, recird plsyers, radios, and lived in comfortable homes. Many had cars. There were cultural consequences. Thus there was unprecedented feedom. Even younger teens no longer had to listen to the music mom and dad picked out on the family radio as was the case in the 1920s-40s. They had their own phonographs and radios. And older teens had cars which gave them physical indeprndence. Few had the concerns about the future that their parents had. Getting a job after school was not the concern it was for their parents. American was booming. Cars had tail fins, An expression of both needless opulence and optimism about the new jet-age. This all occurred in a world that at the beginning of the decade was still recovering from the War.

Philosophy

The hippie philosophy might be best summarized as peace, love, and freedom. The Hippy movement developed in America during the mid-1960s, almost at the same time the United States committed combat troops to the Vietnam War (1965). It was a totally unexpected development. The hippies emerged suddenly from prosperous 1960s America as a strange new subculture. Most were from comfortable middle-class families. Few had working-class or upper-class backgrounds. Many had grown up in comfortable suburban communities and unlike their oarents wanted for nothing. They decided, however, they wanted a different life style. They decided that after high school, they did not want want to study in college or get jobs. Instead, they decided that they wanted to enjoy life. They rather assumed that the necesities of life such as food, clothes, and housing were a given thst should be provided to them by society. There was much talk of altruism, religuous mysticism, music, honesty, pleasure, nonviolence, and almost always drugs. Some talk about the professed aim of hippies. That is probably an exageration becuse most were too self absorbed and concerned with immediate pleasure to have any real aims. A sociologist called them "the Freudian proletariat"--an interesting term because the Hippies were not all that disposed to work and prletariat is a term fir the workers. In the Soiviet Union at the time they would have been arrested as 'socialm paraseites' and put to work in camps. The hippies were a reaction to the America of the 1950s and the capatilist work ethic. Their primary focus was a rejection on hard work and the whole American dream. The Hippy movement rejected what every button-down American embraced. The Hippies were not interested in studying or in preparing themselves for careers. Droping out and tuning into drugs was the order of the day. They opposed violence and in particular objected to the Vietnam War. Peace, love, and freedom are all situations man aspires to, but the hippies growing up in stable, secure of America did not understand what an even basic education would have told them. Peace existed only because America had military power. Few were aware or perhaps even cared to what happened in Communist countries at the time. Today we know much more about secret police organizations like the KGB or Stasi. Love is anothger wonderful thing, but love especially free-love has real life consequences. Someone would have to care for the children. And freedom is also laudable, but wih freedom comes the resonsibility to care for yourself and not depend on others who you demene to care for you and your children because of your irresponsibility.

Fashion Trends

There were also fashion trends embraced by the hippies. Young men began wearing long hair and growing beards. Young women dressed in peasants dresses. Popular for both of course were tattered jeans. Both took to psychedelic colors. For some reason, there was afascination with beads as well as blossoms and bells. Here Buddhism and Hinduism seems to have been an influence. Hippy clothing had a major impact on popular fashions.

Hair Styles


Life Style

The Hippies not only dressed differently and wore long hair, they attempted to drop out of society.Hippies rejected the new opportunities. They dropped out of university and instead tried to form rock bands and live without jobs. Some lived on the street. Other attempted to live together in unorganized camps using tents or make-shift shelters. Gradually they begsn forming informal communes. The communes formed by the early hippies were informal. Mosdt did not last long. People lived together in the comunes, but came and went. They shared many common interests and values. Decesion making was consenual and non-hierarchical. Many communes were concerned with ecological issues. Income and possessions was shared. Marriage was considered old fashioned and free-love was pervasive. Their parents were criticized for being amomoing other matters, 'up-tight about sex'. There was little concern about possible pregnacies or providion for the care of the children. Parenting was in many cases also shared. Drug usage was very common. Marijuana was everywhere and many seeking greter highs continued on to hard drugs like hashish. LSD became very popular in the 60s. Some of the most adventuresome took off for exotic locations like India and Nepal to seek enlightenment. The life style commonly led to poverty. Many young women found themselves with children and without marriage no husband to help support them. And as thy had not prepared themselves to earn a living, sought support from their parents or the welfare system, living off the system which they rejected.

Debate

The Hippy moveement has been the subject of both exhaustive study and even more ideologically centered debate. Opinions varied greatly. To many hard-working Americans, including many of thrir psrents, they seemed dirty and disrespectful of their parents and American society as whole. An observer at the time desceibed them as "expatriates living on our shores but beyond our society". Respected hstorian Arnold Toynbee wrote that they were "a red warning light for the American way of life." Californian Catholic cleric James Pike was impressed with what she saw as a Christian spirit, "There is something about the temper and quality of these people, a gentleness, a quietness, an interest—something good."

Assessment

There were positive aspects, perhaps the most important was the relaxed attitudes toward race. And the adoption of non-violence aid the Civil Rights movement. Other aspects are still being debated today, such as relaxed attitudes toward sex. Less savory was the commitment to drugs. Hippies believed that enlightenment and great music came not through tiresome study, but taking drugs. Others were less contemplative and just enjoyed the immediate and sometimes spectacular pleasure to achieved through drugs. As with most aspects of hippy life, the long-term consequences were not condidered. The Hippies may have had a more long-term impact than generally seen. Until the 1960s, criticisms of the capitalism that made America rich generally came from the working-class. The hippies were a product of a much-expanded middle-class. This was the beginning of an increasingly belief in America tht economic affluence was a given and the only question was how to divide the pie. The idea that free-market capitalism was a system that needed to be nutured and promoted was alien to the hippies. What they wanted was the immediate good life. Unfortunately this is how many Americans think today. They want allm kinds og Government benefits without any thought of where the money is coming ffom or the long-term consequences of massive budget defecits. The attitude is that basic human needs should be provided. As one TV commentator said over and over in the aftermath of the 2010 healthcare debate, "Health care is a basic human need". The inference was that if it is a human need, the government should provide it. This was how the hippies thought. There goal was immediate pleasure, getting a job to provide for the essentials shiuld be provide by the society wjhich they rejected.

Country Trends

While initially an American movement, the Hippies gradually influenced other counties as well, especially Europe.







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Created: 9:18 PM 1/3/2011
Last updated: 9:22 AM 10/7/2011