American Hippie Counterculture the Decade Term Paper

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A withdrawal from that conflict and the demise of the Johnson administration.

Several events in particular galvanized the Hippie generation against governmental authority in the 1960s, including the response of various Southern state governments to the growing Civil Rights movement, especially after the disappearance and murder of Civil Rights activists from the Northeast and the use of state troops to resist Supreme Court decisions on the matter of school desegregation. However, perhaps no political goal was more important to the Hippie generation than the opposition to the war in Vietnam and the compulsory draft system of all males of military age.

The Hippie movement embraced the anti-war and anti-draft cause, rallying in mass draft card burning demonstrations in Washington and in protest marches on college campuses throughout much of the country. Tragic events like the death of four college students shot by National Guard troops on the campus of Kent State University only reaffirmed the commitment to the cause against the war and the draft.

Music also played a major role in the anti-war movement with popular artists contributing to the cause with lyrics advocating opposition to governmental authority and to war in general, and to American participation in the war in Vietnam, in particular.

Several very high-profile mass gatherings, such as at Woodstock in upstate New York and at Altamont near San Francisco hosted hundreds of thousands of Hippies and featured the most popular musical talent of the era. Countless smaller venues hosted similar free get-togethers and "love ins" across the country, promoting the same political agenda against the government and the war.

Whereas peace and love characterized the dominant attitude of the Hippie counterculture, several more radical components advocated more aggressive tactics against the main-stream cultural institutions. The so-called "Chicago Seven" disrupted the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago along with an eighth member, Bobby Seale of the much more radical and less pacifist Black Panthers who were not opposed to violent governmental opposition. Another member of the Chicago Seven, Abby

Hoffman, promoted various forms of non-violent but criminal acts of anarchy that he detailed in his book, entitled Steal This Book (1971), in which he provided instructions on everything from eating cheaply and living freely to hitching free rides illegally on public transportation, circumventing the need for postage stamps on mail, hot-wiring cars and public telephones, and shoplifting (Hoffman, p.198). Its basic premise was that capitalism is immoral in the first place and that more evolved societies would eventually make monetary currency completely unnecessary anyway.


The Hippie phenomenon that began in the United States in the 1960s shaped much of American history of that era and contributed to long-term changes in the social fabric and political ideology of this country that are still apparent today. Like other countercultural social movements, the Hippie culture included superficial elements of convention and style, but many of the changes first associated with Hippies were decidedly beneficial, such as the Civil Rights movement and the increased freedom of expression and peaceful political opposition through public protest.

Whereas several elements of the Hippie counterculture like the anti-work ethic sentiment were subsequently abandoned, (even by some of its most notable proponents at the time), other core components like political activism, racial and gender equality, and sexual autonomy remain part of contemporary American social culture. Still others, like global ecological consciousness and political opposition to U.S. involvement in foreign wars arising from questionable domestic concerns seem as relevant now as they were forty years ago when the Hippies introduced them as elements of a radical counterculture.

With respect to the war in Iraq and particularly the policies and justifications offered by the current U.S. administration, history seems poised very much to repeat itself in prompting the eventual pullout of U.S. troops from the region. In fact, one need only consider the topics of political debate in connection with the 2008 presidential election to realize how much the Hippie generation still influences American culture, even today.


Baker, R., Elliston, F. (2002) Philosophy and Sex. Buffalo: Prometheus

Friedman, L.M. (2005) a History of American Law. New York: Touchstone

Hoffman, a. (1971) Steal This Book. New York: Grove

Miller, J. (1992) the Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll. New York: Random House

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