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The Counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s

Summary and Keywords

In the decade after 1965, radicals responded to the alienating features of America’s technocratic society by developing alternative cultures that emphasized authenticity, individualism, and community. The counterculture emerged from a handful of 1950s bohemian enclaves, most notably the Beat subcultures in the Bay Area and Greenwich Village. But new influences shaped an eclectic and decentralized counterculture after 1965, first in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, then in urban areas and college towns, and, by the 1970s, on communes and in myriad counter-institutions. The psychedelic drug cultures around Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey gave rise to a mystical bent in some branches of the counterculture and influenced counterculture style in countless ways: acid rock redefined popular music; tie dye, long hair, repurposed clothes, and hip argot established a new style; and sexual mores loosened. Yet the counterculture’s reactionary elements were strong. In many counterculture communities, gender roles mirrored those of mainstream society, and aggressive male sexuality inhibited feminist spins on the sexual revolution. Entrepreneurs and corporate America refashioned the counterculture aesthetic into a marketable commodity, ignoring the counterculture’s incisive critique of capitalism. Yet the counterculture became the basis of authentic “right livelihoods” for others. Meanwhile, the politics of the counterculture defy ready categorization. The popular imagination often conflates hippies with radical peace activists. But New Leftists frequently excoriated the counterculture for rejecting political engagement in favor of hedonistic escapism or libertarian individualism. Both views miss the most important political aspects of the counterculture, which centered on the embodiment of a decentralized anarchist bent, expressed in the formation of counter-institutions like underground newspapers, urban and rural communes, head shops, and food co-ops. As the counterculture faded after 1975, its legacies became apparent in the redefinition of the American family, the advent of the personal computer, an increasing ecological and culinary consciousness, and the marijuana legalization movement.

Keywords: 1960s, 1970s, counterculture, New Left, communal living, hippies, sex, drugs, rock music, environmentalism, San Francisco, religion

Counterculture Origins

The historian Theodore Roszak published The Making of a Counter Culture in 1969, popularizing the term “counter culture” during the year of the Woodstock and Altamont concerts, the People’s Park protests in Berkeley, and the Manson murders in Los Angeles. Those sensational events are frequently cited to mark the death of the 1960s counterculture. But Roszak believed that the counterculture was just getting started, and he set out to define the origins and the most promising paths forward for the movement. Roszak also reframed the hippie counterculture as an intellectual movement whose Day-Glo lifestyle assaulted mainstream values and represented a genuine alternative to America’s technocratic order. Yet because counterculture advocates had crafted few ideological justifications for their critique of American life, Roszak enlisted sympathetic intellectuals to “[build] a sophisticated framework of thought atop those instincts.”1 This highlights one major challenge of historicizing the 1960s counterculture: in addition to capturing vibrant hippie lifestyles, observers must graft ideology onto a movement that rejected ideology.

The American counterculture of the 1960s did not simply reject the mainstream values of the postwar suburban white middle class. Instead, David Farber suggests, the hippie counterculture can best be understood “as an ongoing project of self-conscious cultural producers who tried to build more autonomy into their lives and who did so with a sense that they were working not as lone practitioners, hermits in the wilderness, but as part of a collective experiment in community building.”2 The counterculture constructed right livelihoods. But it remains crucial to recall, as Peter Braunstein and Michael William Doyle argue, that the counterculture was never a centralized entity: “It was an inherently unstable collection of attitudes, tendencies, postures, gestures, ‘lifestyles,’ ideals, visions, hedonistic pleasures, moralisms, negations, and affirmations.”3 The counterculture stood for important and often ethereal values: authenticity and pleasure; community and peace; freedom and liberation; eros and improvisation. Nevertheless, cogent analysis of the American counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s begins by exploring the society that hippies refused, which was the most materially wealthy society in world history.

Many factors converged to create an unprecedented level of economic prosperity for white middle-class families in the two decades following World War II. The postwar baby boom and the GI Bill sent upwardly mobile white families to hastily constructed suburbs, and the postwar arms race spurred the growth of American industry. Expanding corporate bureaucracies created middle-management positions filled by white-collar “organization men,” a term coined by the critic William Whyte. The post-scarcity economy of the 1950s and 1960s produced enough material prosperity for everybody. Now the United States confronted the challenge of equitably distributing the American standard of living. Indeed, Lyndon Johnson’s presidency aimed to establish “the Great Society [that] rests on abundance and liberty for all.”4 Anti-communism and racial moderation characterized the liberal consensus in American politics. Meanwhile, permissive childrearing created a new middle-class childhood, and suburban women increasingly suffered from a stultifying counterpoint to the conformity of organization men, what Betty Friedan called “the problem that has no name.”5

The Beat subculture of New York’s Lower East Side and San Francisco’s North Beach represented the most significant cultural rebellion of the 1950s, rejecting the inauthenticity of postwar America and prefiguring the hippie counterculture of the 1960s. Allen Ginsberg burst onto the American literary scene soon after his 1955 public reading of “Howl” at San Francisco’s Six Gallery. Howl and Other Poems survived obscenity charges two years later, a key step in liberalizing American censorship laws. Meanwhile, Jack Kerouac published the novel On the Road in 1957, employing a spontaneous bop prosody influenced by jazz music and the literary avant-garde. William Burroughs, Gary Snyder, Diana di Prima, and other writers developed Beat literary aesthetics. And Beats built an alternative lifestyle of loose, transgressive, and highly masculine sexual mores; casual and experimental drug use; mystical exploration; ragged dress; informal living arrangements; and roving travel. The Beats esteemed decent poverty as an antidote to suburban America.6

Other antidotes existed. Drugs were common in American life before the emergence of the counterculture. The Beats preferred marijuana; millions in the American middle class took prescription tranquilizers or amphetamines; the CIA explored the mind-altering qualities of LSD, or acid; and psychiatrists studied the influence of hallucinogenic drugs, including mescaline and psilocybin. Beginning in the mid-1950s, a few scientists and seers began to experiment with hallucinogens for their mind-expanding properties and revolutionary potential. The British writer Aldous Huxley wrote of profound insights gained through LSD and mescaline experiences in the late 1950s. Elsewhere, Timothy Leary created the Harvard Psychedelic Research Project to study LSD, later losing his academic post and transferring his experiment to a farm in Millbrook, New York. Leary believed that LSD would be revolutionary if widely distributed. Beat visionary Allen Ginsberg, meanwhile, insisted that hallucinogenic drugs could provide an individual pathway to spiritual enlightenment. All three men believed that such non-intellective insights would challenge the scientific worldview of the technocratic society.7

Like psychedelia, the sexual revolution emerged from the laboratory. The Kinsey Reports amply document the range of American sexual behavior after World War II. But American sexuality dramatically shifted after the Food and Drug Administration approved oral contraceptives in 1960. The Pill simplified the sexual lives of American women by providing a straightforward method of separating sex from procreation. As the sexual revolution evolved, however, the Pill complicated the sexual lives of radical women in surprising ways. Elsewhere, obscenity, marriage, and abortion laws evolved; gay and lesbian activism prefigured sexual liberation movements; clothing fashions and university regulations prompted sexual exploration.8

At the same time that loosening in loco parentis rules began to change sexual standards on campus, the New Left developed around American universities, earlier and separately from the hippie counterculture. From its inception during the early 1960s, the American New Left aimed to effect both systemic political change and personal transformation. The strategic politics of the early New Left focused on four issues: African American civil rights, opposition to nuclear weapons, student rights, and community antipoverty organizing. After the United States became embroiled in the Vietnam War in 1964, however, New Left organizing increasingly focused on antiwar protest and draft resistance. But the New Left emphasis on youth alienation, authenticity, and participatory democracy influenced counterculture political activity after 1965. All of the major political issues of the early New Left were rooted in the inhumane products of a post-scarcity society supposedly engineered by a high-minded technocratic elite. This led New Leftists to develop an anarchist method, emphasizing small organizations governed by level and democratic structures. Male chauvinism remained pervasive. But early chapters of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) otherwise established a democratic culture that was just as important as New Left activism for many. Politicos were inspired to develop prefigurative politics by such diverse sources as liberal Christian ministers around the Austin YMCA and the visionary anarchist sociology of Paul Goodman. In 1965 and 1966, the counterculture instinct began to be felt in the New Left through the separate influences of the SDS prairie power contingent—youth from the Midwest and Southwest who had fewer formal socialist influences and more thorough hip tendencies than their northeastern counterparts—and the Bay Area Vietnam Day Committee. While hippies gathering in the Haight-Ashbury during 1967 were generally not concerned with these issues, hordes of people who later identified with the counterculture came to their cultural rebellion through the New Left.

Counterculture Incubator

To promote his second novel, Sometimes a Great Notion, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, a group of friends who had gathered around Kesey’s communal home in La Honda, California, set out on a cross-country road trip to the World’s Fair in New York aboard a Day-Glo bus named Furthur. Fueled by acid-laced Kool-Aid and chauffeured by Beat luminary Neal Cassady, the Merry Pranksters tripped across the United States in a rambling adventure captured in Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Upon returning to San Francisco, Kesey teamed up with Allen Ginsberg, Stewart Brand, and the newly formed Grateful Dead to hold a series of Acid Tests, parties that introduced locals to LSD in carefully constructed environments, where music and lights maximized the drug’s impact. The Acid Tests fundamentally shaped the hippie drug culture and signaled the advent of the San Francisco counterculture, now centered on the Haight-Ashbury district.9

In 1965, the Haight-Ashbury was a run-down neighborhood of Victorian homes east of Golden Gate Park. But cheap rents attracted down-at-heel youth, and those rambling manses turned into crash pads and pseudo-communal experiments. Hippie energy converted the Haight into a pulsating hive of counterculture activity, and the distinctive style of the counterculture took form. Women in shabby Victorian dresses or Native American beadwork strutted alongside long-haired men. Tight-fitting jeans graced women and men alike. And all the ragged hippie paraphernalia was available at secondhand stores or the Psychedelic Shop. The San Francisco Diggers, an outfit of guerrilla “life artists” exiled from the San Francisco Mime Troupe, built a local culture around the idea that everything would be free: healthcare and hemp; food and furnishings. The Diggers reasoned that a rejection of private property and an improvisational sensibility would produce an authentic, anarchic community. But that philosophy depended on the excesses of a post-scarcity economy. Drugs proliferated through a vibrant market chaired by Augustus Owsley Stanley, who began selling LSD in the Haight in 1965. Meanwhile, an acid rock scene grew around the Grateful Dead, with benefit dances and concerts—some free, others not—at the Fillmore Auditorium and a host of other venues. Telltale events like the 1966 Trips Festival and the 1967 Human Be-In established a festival counterculture that freaks soon replicated elsewhere. During the 1967 Summer of Love, hippies from across the United States descended on the Haight in response to surging national media attention. But the spotlight undercut the Haight as a counterculture Mecca. The neighborhood simply lacked the infrastructure to accommodate such an influx of youth.10

Alternative countercultures also developed elsewhere. Districts like Old Town in Chicago, Dinkytown in Minneapolis, and Fourteenth Street in Atlanta developed local countercultures with distinctive roots. That was most evident on New York’s Lower East Side, where various anarchist strains interacted with the city’s cultural avant-garde. Ben Morea, Dan Georgakas, and Ron Hahne formed the anarchist group Black Mask in 1966 and staged a variety of street protests against New York’s art establishment, once forcing the Museum of Modern Art to shuts its doors for a day. After morphing into a larger collective, Up Against the Wall Motherfucker! (UAW/MF), in 1968, the group became an increasingly radical street gang with surrealist and Dadaist tendencies. Beyond their frequent confrontations with community authorities, UAW/MF often came into conflict with other countercultural types, particularly around the commercialization of the counterculture. Elsewhere on the Lower East Side, Ed Sanders established a link between the Beats and the counterculture by founding the avant-garde Fuck You / A Magazine of the Arts, the Peace Eye Bookstore, and the Fugs, an experimental psychedelic rock group. The underground East Village Other, meanwhile, became New York’s counterculture outlet of record after its 1965 creation, and the Yippies were formed in Abbie Hoffman’s Lower East Side apartment in the closing hours of 1967. The rich countercultures established in New York City represented an alternative origin site for the American counterculture, one that emphasized anarcho-political strains.11

Counterculture Expansion

By the time that San Francisco’s Summer of Love disastrously devolved, the Haight-Ashbury had already fulfilled its function as a counterculture incubator, and the hippie lifestyle spread across the United States. While local countercultures always developed distinctive expressions, national patterns emerged, not only around sex, drugs, and rock and roll but spirituality, style, and communications.

The counterculture employed an informal psychedelic code that distinguished good from bad drug practices in counterculture communities. LSD was not a controlled substance in the early 1960s. Indeed, acid seemed destined to become part of a mass-market pharmaceutical revolution. Only in 1966, after freaks had incorporated acid into their ritual lives and researchers had warned of potential social consequences of drug abuse, did Congress regulate LSD. Marijuana had been criminalized since the 1930s and also underwent increased scrutiny during the 1960s. For hippies, dope became not only an avenue to mind expansion but a radical critique of liberal politics. Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, and John Sinclair were soon embroiled in legal drama, the celebrity faces of an assault that pushed the hippie drug culture underground. Hippie drug abuse increased apace, especially as hard drugs entered counterculture enclaves. Dope culture had simultaneously become commodified and criminalized. Yet hippies perpetuated the drug culture through head shops, black markets, the underground press, and, after 1974, High Times magazine, which profited from counterculture drug use and entered the political fray by promoting marijuana legalization.12

Meanwhile, the psychedelic milieu of the Acid Tests provided the space where artists recreated rock music during the 1960s. Melodic jams, funky bass lines, wandering guitar riffs, and pervasive reverberation—hallmarks of bands like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish, and Big Brother and the Holding Company—powerfully interacted with the LSD experience. The folk music revival of the 1960s also intersected with the counterculture and inspired a new festival culture. But folk musicians like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, and Phil Ochs were more frequently political than their acid rock counterparts. Either way, historian Michael Kramer argues, counterculture music promoted a “Republic of Rock” that redefined American citizenship during the late 1960s.13 Live concerts and festivals became counterculture rituals. The August 1969 Woodstock Festival was a generational moment of hippie fellowship despite flirting with disaster. The December 1969 Altamont Free Concert became a scapegoat for counterculture excess when a Hells Angels security detail killed one concertgoer. Both events became ideological weapons for culture warriors. But such festivals signaled a counterculture tendency toward grandiosity that always danced along a razor’s edge separating celebration and ruin. That dance extended to the lives of musicians. Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died of drug overdoses within weeks of each other in 1970. But the festival culture represents an important legacy of the counterculture, especially as rock concerts later became fundraising avenues for political causes like the antinuclear movement or the farm crisis.

In the bedroom, the counterculture emphasized loose sexual mores that enshrined an aggressive male sexuality in the guise of liberation. Counterculture sexual experimentation echoed patterns evident in 19th-century communal experiments and 20th-century bohemian subcultures. But counterculture practices influenced many more people. The Sexual Freedom League, founded by Jefferson Poland, promoted a free sexuality that was more often expressed outside institutional bounds. Casual sex and serial monogamy were standard fair; open marriage communes and group sex experiments dotted the landscape; and the pornography industry mushroomed in response to a host of liberalizing judicial decisions. All these factors contributed to an aggressively male sexual culture, often pitched as liberationist but more often misogynist.14

The pressure on counterculture women to engage in casual sex became one major spark for the women’s liberation movement. Ironically, radical feminists drew on counterculture methods to attack the patriarchal norms prevalent in the counterculture itself. The 1968 Miss America protest, for instance, employed street theater to attack a mainstream institution. Two years later, Robin Morgan took over the Rat, a characteristically chauvinist New York underground newspaper, reimagining the rag as a feminist outlet. The Rat exemplified a host of dehumanizing stereotypes of hip womanhood that pervaded the counterculture. Within many counterculture communities, women performed traditional feminine tasks and disproportionate labor. Yet such work often brought women into leadership positions in the quest for hip survival. Consequently, women boasted increasing influence in 1970s counterculture communities. But other women rejected counterculture gender norms, instead following the utopian impulse of the counterculture and the ideology of radical feminism to develop a woman-identified feminist consciousness that appealed to lesbian and straight women alike.15

The sexual options available to straight counterculture men remained open. But hippie gender norms created an androgynous male image that challenged mainstream masculine stereotypes. Long hair and tight jeans, peace and “flower power,” all belied effeminacy to the popular imagination. Yet counterculture men actually enacted varied gender roles. The Diggers rejected militarism, breadwinning, and whiteness as masculine ideals, instead pursuing a virile masculinity that emphasized male authority within an anarchist setting. Female drudgery naturally followed. An alternative hippie masculinity developed at the Farm in rural Tennessee, where Haight exile Stephen Gaskin promoted a chivalrous masculinity based on a tantric sexual order. Farm men followed the leadership of women in marriage, sexuality, and childbirth. Regardless, hippies did not invite open homosexuality, which eventually gave rise to gay communal ventures like New York’s 95th Street Collective or Massachusetts’s Butterworth Farm.16

The counterculture mistrust of scientific rationality also spurred spiritual awakenings that revitalized many world religions in the United States. Most famously, the counterculture coincided with an awakening of Eastern religious traditions in varied and often syncretic forms. Gary Snyder and Alan Watts imbued the counterculture with a Zen sensibility. Meanwhile, Hindu gurus and syncretic spiritual leaders advanced the counterculture’s spiritual attack on Western rationalism. Pilgrimages to Asian shrines or gurus became marks of hippie authenticity. But the counterculture impact on Christianity was perhaps even more thoroughgoing. Mainstream Christian denominations became far more liberal during the 1960s and 1970s, and Christian youth attracted to hippie values but turned off by sexual laxity and drug use became Jesus People and filled evangelical churches.17 All told, the counterculture produced a spiritual reorientation that echoes into the 21st century.18

The counterculture spiritual impulse also led some freaks to explore Native American spiritual traditions, producing fraught interactions between hippies and indigenous people. Hippies participated in Pacific Northwest fish-ins in the early 1960s. Stewart Brand opened the 1966 Trips Festival with a presentation titled “America Needs Indians.” And a few freaks supported American Indian Movement activism a decade later. But most hippies were just superficially attracted to the natural and communitarian values of indigenous people, co-opting native style as a critique of middle-class values. Philip Deloria has scorned hippies for “playing Indian” without engaging in the political work necessary to address the challenges of contemporary native life and reservation poverty.19

Meanwhile, native iconography graced the pages of underground newspapers, which became the most important institutions in perpetuating counterculture values and projects. Photo-offset printing facilitated newspaper production in the mid-1960s, and each year after 1965 spawned a spate of new alternative news sheets in major cities, college towns, and eventually most mid-sized communities in the United States. Early exemplars like the Berkeley Barb, the Los Angeles Free Press, and the East Village Other begot Seattle’s Helix, Lawrence’s Vortex, and the Chicago Seed. The underground press always straddled the line between political and cultural sensibilities. At its peak in 1971, Liberation News Service (LNS) distributed news packets to 895 alternative outlets and organizations. At the local level, underground newspapers became the information infrastructure that allowed political and cultural radicals to reach wide audiences. Information about music festivals, drugs, new albums, food cooperatives, free clinics, and psychedelic artwork filled the underground press. But outlets like Austin’s Rag and Atlanta’s Great Speckled Bird also built democratic work arrangements that allowed many radicals to apply counterculture values to their daily lives. By the time that a newspaper like Eugene’s Augur formed in 1969, collective work arrangements were the sine qua non of the underground media, creating local countercultures that embodied values birthed in the Haight-Ashbury and the New Left.20

Counterculture Politics

The politics of the counterculture cannot be systematically mapped onto the left-right spectrum of American politics. Some counterculture advocates embodied socialist or anarchist instincts; others were drawn to the libertarian emphasis on personal freedom; still others abhorred politics altogether. For this reason, sociologist Rebecca Klatch describes the counterculture as a central meeting place for youth in the New Left and the New Right.21 Yet the counterculture also became a shared target of political attacks. Ascendant conservatives utilized counterculture excess to promote the traditional values of the suburban white middle class and evangelical Protestants. And New Leftists frequently excoriated hippies for their excessive individualism, eclectic ideologies, and escapist idiosyncrasies, which thwarted the Movement. Nevertheless, hippies tended to lean left.

Only after 1967 did the New Left and the counterculture substantially overlap. The October 1967 March on the Pentagon, organized by the National Coalition to End the War in Vietnam, left space for both a heated confrontation with law enforcement on the steps of the Pentagon and a collective effort to levitate the Pentagon. Six months later, protestors at Columbia University fought against abuse of student rights, university complicity in the Vietnam War, and institutional racism by creating six communes in occupied campus buildings. Protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago exemplified a maturing theatricality that blended New Left confrontation with counterculture whimsy. And the 1969 People’s Park protests in Berkeley, where protestors repurposed land intended for a parking lot into community parkland in the face of violent reprisal, illustrated that such utopian politics could sustain an activist community over an extended protest. Activists nationwide were now drawn to a widening array of political causes: feminism, pacifism, gay liberation, environmentalism, student rights, and labor agitation. And while third-world liberation activists inspired by black nationalists—including American Indian activists, Chicano protestors, and Asian American politicos—generally operated separate organizations and were often dismissive of the counterculture, the counterculture’s influence was everywhere apparent. Within this milieu, activists pursued three major impulses that formed a distinctive counterculture politics.22

Street theater became the counterculture’s earliest and most visible form of political engagement. The Diggers pioneered counterculture theatrical politics in the Haight-Ashbury after leaving the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Understanding themselves as “life actors,” Diggers believed that by joyfully rejecting materialism and building community they could construct a local anarchist society of counter-institutions that emphasized freedom in every guise. Their public improvisational performances spun the counterculture to political ends. Meanwhile, the Yippies, formed by Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman in 1967, employed political theater nationwide. But unlike the Diggers, who emphasized individual transformation, Yippies sought national media attention to shift public consciousness on a grand scale. A group of Yippies famously threw dollar bills on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in 1967, watching traders scramble for mere peanuts. Yippie theatricality also colored the Pentagon march and protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Although rarely tied to specific political agendas, guerrilla theater sought cultural transformations that would produce political change.23

Elsewhere, activists created New Left countercultures that blended strategic activism and cultural politics, deepening the utopian impulse that had animated the early New Left. These activists understood that if the revolution was about their lives, only small, local counter-institutions could develop genuine participatory democratic cultures.24 Such projects multiplied exponentially. The White Panther Party formed in Detroit, Michigan, from the Trans-Love Energies commune and the rock band MC5, signaling a shift from Yippie-inspired theatricality to a “total assault on the culture.” The White Panthers, led by John Sinclair, harnessed music, communal living, the underground press, and drugs to create a local revolutionary culture.25 Elsewhere, underground newspapers that had begun as hierarchical outfits followed the Rag and the Great Speckled Bird by becoming democratic collectives. Food cooperatives pooled community resources to challenge dominant food systems. And communes like the Movement for a New Society, the Community for Creative Nonviolence, and the Committee on Public Safety boasted political missions. But even communes that focused on cooperative arts or self-sufficient agriculture could be understood as political projects. The development of counterculture utopian politics also gained momentum from feminist critiques of New Left chauvinism. Small counter-institutions like underground newspapers or food co-ops were more likely than larger Movement organizations to respond to feminist critiques with institutional change, especially after 1968. But beyond mixed-sex groups, cultural feminists developed separate feminist institutions like rape crisis centers, women’s health facilities, feminist bookstores, and softball leagues as women-only alternatives to counterculture chauvinism. Such decentralized feminist institutions owed much to the counterculture’s impulse toward community and autonomy.

Counterculture politics also extended to activism for environmental sustainability. Despite counterculture critiques of scientific rationalism, many freaks were drawn to the emerging science of ecology for its holistic emphasis on the complexity of ecosystems and the interconnectedness of all life. Importantly, counterculture environmentalists were not Luddites. The Whole Earth Catalog, published by Stewart Brand between 1968 and 1971, spread the appropriate-technology movement, which was built on the premise that technology on a human scale could promote environmental sustainability and self-reliance.26 Elsewhere, activists developed alternative foodways informed by ecology. Emphasizing organic, macrobiotic, and often vegetarian food, activists proposed an alternative diet that was healthier for people and planet. Frances Moore Lappé’s 1971 recipe book, Diet for a Small Planet; the Moosewood Restaurant collective in Ithaca, New York; or Carol Flinders’s 1976 Laurel’s Kitchen exemplified the whole food ethic. Communal farms and local producers responded by growing more organic produce.27

The antinuclear movement of the 1970s and 1980s synthesized the counterculture’s three political impulses within local and regional movements. Communards at Montague Farm in western Massachusetts initiated and expanded counterculture antinuclear activism after 1973, when Sam Lovejoy toppled a Northeast Utilities weather tower, sparking a grassroots movement that derailed construction of twin reactors. Activists across New England soon formed the Clamshell Alliance to protest twin reactors at Seabrook, New Hampshire, and organized the 1979 No Nukes concerts in New York City.28 The counterculture influence on antinuclear activism followed the movement to the California, where the Livermore Action Group boasted substantial support from hippies in its protests against nuclear weapons production at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory during the early 1980s.29 Across the antinuclear movement, activists employed theater as protest, honored consensus decisions, and organized affinity groups to promote ecological integrity and community autonomy.

The Counterculture at Work

The counterculture came of age amid unprecedented economic prosperity, and the advent of the counterculture cannot be separated from the post-scarcity economy that enabled middle-class youth to forsake careers for voluntary poverty. But the hippie rejection of the economic status quo does not mean that the counterculture was systematically anti-capitalist. In crucial ways, the counterculture and corporate America maintained a symbiotic relationship. Many hippies worked straight jobs. Others bilked Great Society social programs. And countless freaks survived on mere surplus: grocery store discards, thrift store cast-offs, or agricultural donations. The Diggers exemplified this attitude. Philosophically anti-capitalist and emphasizing that “everything is free,” the Diggers never developed a coherent philosophy of production to counter America’s corporatist structure. Consequently, even the counterculture’s most radical anti-capitalist philosophers remained essentially parasites of American capitalist excess.

Corporate America likewise benefited from the counterculture by co-opting counterculture style. By the end of the 1960s, Madison Avenue executives recognized that hip marketing appealed to mainstream Americans. Advertisements for soap and detergent, appliances, automobiles, cigarettes, and many other consumer goods all tapped into hippie tropes. Meanwhile, the food industry selectively incorporated aspects of hip counter-cuisines at the same time that it rejected their most radical elements. Thomas Frank’s The Conquest of Cool is among the most cited books on the American counterculture, and it is a brilliant critique of corporate manipulation and consumer caprice. But it is a poor replacement for a more nuanced analysis of counterculture business sensibilities.30

In response to Frank, David Farber recently called for histories of counterculture “right livelihoods,” and scholars have begun to explore counterculture business practices more deeply.31 Hip businesses became vehicles for freaks to establish ethical and autonomous radical lifeways. Importantly, hip businesses did not reject hard work but embraced entrepreneurship, active labor, and community engagement. Ron and Jay Thelan’s Psychedelic Shop became a community gathering space and information outlet in the Haight-Ashbury even as it operated as a successful business. The Psychedelic Shop sold everything for the hippie lifestyle—drug paraphernalia, books, records, incense, jewelry, and clothing—portending the multiplication of head shops over the following decade. By the end of the 1970s, an estimated thirty thousand head shops dotted the American business landscape.32 The Joyful Alternative, a hippie emporium in Columbia, South Carolina, illustrates how important such a hip capitalist venture could be to a counterculture community, especially outside hip urban enclaves. Perhaps most significant, the Joyful Alternative founders tapped into regional folk craft traditions, illustrating the extent to which the counterculture could incorporate and enrich local vernacular cultures.33

Food became another avenue by which counterculture types could establish right livelihoods, and food cooperatives became the hallmark of counterculture efforts to eat responsibly. Tapping into a history of community food systems dating to the 19th century, cooperatives of the counterculture era aimed to challenge the corporate food industry, build local autonomy and community, and promote organic and whole foods. Importantly, cooperative participants understood their business ventures as avenues for building an ongoing sustainable counterculture. Many cooperative founders in the Twin Cities, for instance, entered the cooperative movement via local communes. Thousands of co-ops sprouted across the United States in the 1970s, and many would not have identified with the hippie counterculture. But as counterculture types became drawn to local politics, co-ops increasingly became politically significant. Indeed, Twin Cities cooperative ventures were intriguing enough to New Communists to foment a “co-op war” midway through the 1970s. As they spread, food cooperatives became counter-institutions that could provide meaningful work and livelihoods outside of the economic mainstream.34

Other forms of hip capitalism multiplied. Boulder, Colorado, boasted more than two dozen hip businesses by 1976, including several head shops, natural food outlets, coffee shops, and bookstores; Mo Siegel’s Celestial Seasonings got its start there in 1970, eventually taking herbal tea into the mainstream.35 Other counterculture entrepreneurs operated underground. The drug trade profited some entrepreneurial freaks and perpetuated counterculture rituals. Every hip center had a distribution network. Augustus Owsley Stanley became the most famous hippie drug trader, producing and distributing untold amounts of LSD in the Bay Area. The Brotherhood of Eternal Love served Los Angeles freaks. From Lawrence, Kansas, the Kaw Valley Hemp Pickers harvested and distributed marijuana around the Midwest.

Although not everybody had the courage to create a business or the guile to operate in the drug trade, the counterculture offered plenty of work opportunities. Underground newspapers required many hours of labor, most of it unpaid (though some managed modest stipends). The underground press also helped distribute Vocations for Social Change. Based on a commune in northern California, the collective behind Vocations for Social Change served as a clearinghouse for information about employment and service opportunities to promote political and counterculture projects. Social change options multiplied.

The proliferation of hip businesses in the 1970s makes it difficult to support the claim that the counterculture was systematically anti-capitalist. But unlike the “everything is free” advocates who rode the post-scarcity wave of the 1960s, hippies who built the counterculture in the 1970s understood that a total assault on the culture required substantial labor and creative work. It also pushed them into the monetary exchange system. But the counterculture’s humane entrepreneurial spirit aimed to promote community and to achieve a decent poverty, representing a revolutionary project enacted in local scenes in real time.

The Communal Counterculture

The proliferation of communes after 1965 represented the fullest expression of counterculture values.36 But commune critics on the left accused communards of eschewing hard political work for narcissistic escapism that undermined the Movement. That misrepresents the commune project. Communards did not escape hard work. Instead, they created vibrant new institutions that required hard physical labor and tireless community work. Communes were courageous centers of right livelihoods that reimagined political engagement. Communards often pioneered sexual experimentation, drug exploration, and new family structures. But popular media accounts emphasized the exotic. Communes were locations where freaks developed new cooperative communities, experimenting with an ethos that modeled new modes of living for others.

The heritage of the communal counterculture stretched back to 19th-century utopian experiments like those at Brook Farm, Fruitlands, and New Harmony, as well as those organized by Oneidas and Shakers. But proximate models were few. Catholic Worker homes dating to the 1930s remained vibrant in the 1960s. Elsewhere, Huw Williams established Tolstoy Farm, a subsistence open-land community that combined communal and private living arrangements near Davenport, Washington. Tolstoy was perhaps the first successful new commune of the counterculture era. The open-land concept spread with varying levels of success. Between 1966 and 1973, for instance, Haight-Ashbury veterans established Morning Star Ranch and Wheeler’s Ranch, two popular open-land communes that were systematically harassed and shut down by local authorities.

But many communes proved hearty. In 1965, three radical artists from the University of Kansas established Drop City in Trinidad, Colorado, an iconic symbol of the counterculture. Thoroughly communal in their attitude toward property, Drop City communards embodied a sustainable material and spiritual poverty. Drop City artists worked in various media: vibrant sculptures from salvaged materials, colorful hats, quirky conceptual art. But the isolated commune became most famous for its “zomes,” variations on Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes. No Luddite bastion, Drop City embodied the appropriate-technology message of Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog. Drop City soon spawned offshoots in southern Colorado, most notably the Libre commune, which diverged from Drop City by more stringently limiting its membership.37 Other regions also developed local communal countercultures, including northern California, the Pacific Northwest, and New England.

But perhaps the most distinctive commune network developed around Taos, New Mexico. Drawn to the desert landscapes of the Pueblo and Navajo people, hippies established communes centered on peyote spiritual practices, headlined by New Buffalo. But the project met resistance from local Hispanos, and Native Americans generally remained ambivalent to their hippie neighbors. Some Taos Pueblo helped New Buffalo establish peyote rituals for its New American Church. But few Taos willingly engaged with New Buffalo. And despite their professed interest in native lifeways, Taos communards played little role in agitating for the 1970 return of Blue Lake, the region’s major indigenous political cause. Most New Mexico communes dissolved by 1972.38

Many communes of 1960s and 1970s revolved around spirituality. But religious communes varied widely in their focus. Jesus-freak communes were probably the most numerous religious communes in the United States, but they also defied aspects of the counterculture. Peopled by evangelical Protestants who sought a hippie lifestyle free of sinful experimentation with sex and drugs, the Jesus movement maintained hundreds of decentralized houses, mostly in urban areas. More famously, Hindu, Sufi, and Sikh communities spread after 1965, most notably the Hare Krishna followers of A. C. Bhaktivedanta. Several of the most important Zen centers in the United States were established during this era, and Tibetan Buddhists like Chogyam Trungpa and Tarthang Tulku built spiritual communities. The Lama Foundation of Ram Dass established a Taos base that drew on myriad spiritual traditions. And more eclectic spiritual communities also formed. The Renaissance Community, led by Michael Metelica in Turners Falls, Massachusetts, developed a syncretic belief system that allowed Metelica to tightly control the assets and lifestyles of his adherents.

Of course, religious sensibilities did not preclude hard physical labor. This was best evidenced at the Farm, a commune established in rural Tennessee in 1971. Stephen Gaskin had attracted followers to his syncretic spirituality in late-1960s San Francisco, and he established the Farm as an outpost for many counterculture activities: self-sufficient agriculture; environmentalism and alternative energy; tantric sexuality; marijuana and psychedelics; rock music. But in all cases the Farm was intent on establishing the basis for long-term survival. Many Farm women followed Ina May Gaskin, author of Spiritual Midwifery, to become midwives. Others developed new foodways, growing organic crops, producing natural food products, following vegan diets, and publishing dozens of vegetarian cookbooks. They later established Plenty, a foreign service organization. By the mid-1970s, over a thousand communards lived at the Farm; two hundred live there today. Communes that followed the Farm in developing intentional financial plans could thrive. Twin Oaks, a rural Virginia commune inspired by B. F. Skinner’s Walden Two, created a hammock business and established work schedules, payment systems, and gender equity.

The communal projects of former underground activists at Liberation News Service reveal the diversity of the communal counterculture. Raymond Mungo left LNS in 1968 to help establish Packer Corners Farm in southern Vermont. At the same time, LNS cofounder Marshall Bloom established Montague Farm in western Massachusetts. Packer Corners focused its energy on self-sufficient organic agriculture and literary production, only entering local politics and arts in the 1970s. Montague Farm likewise established internal stability during its first five years. But Montague communards became leaders in the antinuclear movement after 1973. Allen Young, who opposed Mungo and Bloom during the 1968 LNS split and became active in the Gay Liberation Front, also ended up in the communal counterculture. In 1973, he helped establish Butterworth Farm, a gay commune in Massachusetts. All three men began as political radicals and established successful communes with distinctive identities. They were also gay. And while Young successfully squared his sexual politics with communal living, neither Mungo nor Bloom found their communes to be sites of sexual openness.39

The communal counterculture likewise maintained a mixed record in advancing the women’s liberation movement. Despite counterexamples, the tremendous work required to maintain communes—agriculture, childrearing, machinery, housework—frequently followed traditional gender lines. Communal women worked more hours than their male counterparts, and they contributed more economic resources to communal coffers. Yet women learned myriad new survival skills, and many found their communal work satisfying in exciting ways.40 Communes could also serve as nurturing feminist outposts. In 1976, dozens of women established the Oregon Women’s Land Trust in southern Oregon. OWL Farm and its environs remains a place where feminist values shape a healing community.

Like start-up businesses or aspiring authors, communes failed in startling numbers. And serious abuses dotted the commune landscape: drug use bled into addiction; gurus brainwashed susceptible communards; children were raised in squalor; sexual misconduct scarred victims. But the commune project attracted all types, sinners and saints, and most communards entered communities optimistic about new ways of living and honest about their certain struggles. In the end, communards chose to struggle because communes provided opportunities hard to find elsewhere. Manual labor could be ennobling; technology could promote sustainability; spirituality could enlighten; art could be a way of life; and privacy could coexist with transparency and intimacy.

Counterculture Legacies

The hippie counterculture became America’s most substantial alternative lifestyle between 1965 and 1975. But counterculture influence and visibility faded as the Me Decade closed. Why did the counterculture dissipate? And what legacies did it leave?

Several forces sapped counterculture energy after 1968. American law enforcement targeted counterculture leaders alongside their counterparts in the black power and antiwar movements. Ken Kesey faced drug charges that strained his position in the counterculture as early as 1965. Four years later, White Panthers founder John Sinclair was sentenced to ten years in prison for marijuana possession. Richard Nixon’s war on drugs systematized narcotics arrests.41 But repression took place on many fronts. Underground newspapers faced continual harassment, and Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin were pilloried as part of the Chicago Eight trial. Conservatives of all stripes—including George Wallace and William F. Buckley, Phyllis Schlafly and Jerry Falwell—railed against the counterculture during the 1960s and 1970s, converting their vitriol against hippie sex, drugs, and rock and roll into political gold. The conservative ascendancy of the period drew strength from many antagonisms. But the counterculture provided newly empowered right-wing politicians and activists with an unparalleled foil, spurring alliances between political and cultural conservatives that benefited from the emotional effrontery of counterculture flamboyance. Such a visible counterpoint underwrote the Reagan years and provided a generation of conservative pundits with talk-show fodder and apocalyptic imagery. Meanwhile, stagflation undermined the prosperity that underwrote the counterculture, making it more difficult to live free during the 1970s. Even under ideal circumstances, it was simply hard work to live the counterculture communitarian ideal in a sustainable fashion. Consequently, counterculture projects that emphasized economic sustainability were those most likely to survive. Some succeeded for a time, others for a lifetime.

Though diffuse and difficult to track, the 1960s counterculture shaped several features of contemporary American life. Many counter-institutions established between 1965 and 1975 led rich histories. The underground press and alternative publishers like Grove Press highlighted freedom of speech, challenged American obscenity laws, and spurred the mainstream media to reimagine its work, simultaneously liberating and coarsening American culture.42 When the souring economy undermined the shoestring budgets of underground newssheets, alternative newspapers sustained by more consistent advertising revenue arose. The subsequent alternative media tended to be less incisive in its political critique and less innovative in its aesthetics but served communities well. Since the 1990s, the radical press has transitioned into the digital age, which was itself shaped by the counterculture. Stewart Brand’s gang around the Whole Earth Catalog helped build the personal computer revolution, decentralizing power in the computer age, contributing to the rise of digital culture, and reimagining the Internet as a space for personal liberation and social change.43 The Whole Earth Catalog also pushed American environmentalists to harness technology and entrepreneurship for sustainability. Meanwhile, the counterculture critique of corporate capitalism paired with environmentalism to spur counterculture participation in the antinuclear movement.

Yet the counterculture frequently left an incomplete legacy, evident in the evolution of American foodways. Macrobiotic diets have grown in popularity since the 1970s, and organic produce is widely available and consumed, at additional expense, by the American middle class. Herbal tea, tofu, brown rice, yogurt, and innumerable natural foods are mainstream options, and most American cities boast food co-ops. But the American food system is far more degraded than it was fifty years ago, and corporate co-optation of the natural food industry has derailed the radical political implications of the counter-cuisine that aspired to revitalize American health and wellness in the 1970s.44

That ambiguous counterculture impact is likewise apparent in hippie cultural critiques, which meaningfully but incompletely reshaped American values and behavior. In sometimes contradictory ways, the counterculture contributed to America’s increasing openness to non-normative conceptions of sexuality, gender, and family, liberating millions to live lives that are truer to their gender identities and sexual orientations. Nevertheless, family trends partially attributable to the counterculture have created challenges nationwide, especially for children raised in complex homes with inadequate social supports. Meanwhile, hippie dope culture spawned the marijuana legalization movement in the 1970s. In the early 21st century, American attitudes toward drugs are in flux. In 2012, recreational marijuana legalization laws were passed in Washington and Colorado, two states where counterculture influences remain evident. Other states have followed. The policy implications of marijuana legalization remain to be seen. But the psychedelia central to counterculture life has not aged well. Elsewhere, counterculture spirituality gave rise to New Age traditions that synthesize mind and body practices, best illustrated in the rise of yoga and meditation rituals. Eastern religions and ecumenicalism are more prominent today than they were prior to the 1960s. Nevertheless, the rise of evangelical Christianity to political prominence remains the more potent recent religious development. Events like the Burning Man Festival and Renaissance faires illustrate the persistence of counterculture sensibilities, while the survival of communes, co-ops, and centers indicates that counterculture communitarian ideals could produce hearty counter-institutions when sustainability and economic vitality were intentional goals. The counterculture did not achieve a revolution of American values. But in quiet ways, often in out-of-the-way places, the counterculture project changed many lives and gently nudged American culture in more humane directions.

Discussion of the Literature

The counterculture never formed a self-conscious movement in the fashion of other 1960s social movements. Consequently, the major historiographical debate on the counterculture, even decades later, centers on the definition and parameters of the phenomenon, especially relative to those social movements. In particular, the tendency to discuss the San Francisco counterculture as representative of national trends has only recently given way to a fuller and more nuanced historiography. In the past twenty years, historians have increasingly decentralized the Haight-Ashbury and sex, drugs, and rock and roll to focus more energy on local studies and counterculture politics, capitalism, sex, gender, ecology, and technology. And while historians continue to emphasize the counterculture mistrust of scientific rationality, few still claim that the counterculture was systematically anti-intellectual, despite a paucity of hippie ideological tracts beyond those penned in the underground press.

The simultaneous flowering of the late New Left and the counterculture as youth movements committed to authenticity and social responsibility has long produced heady debate about the political orientation of the counterculture. Did the counterculture support the political activism of New Leftists, or did hippie escapism sap the Movement of its energy and distract American youth with narcissistic hedonism? The first wave of 1960s histories, largely written by former New Leftists in the 1980s, tended to scapegoat the counterculture.45 But a younger generation of historians with fewer personal stakes has developed a revisionist narrative that emphasizes the shared project of the New Left and the counterculture while still acknowledging that political and cultural radicals were not always aligned.46 The counterculture also drew adherents from the New Right, complicating recent histories of counterculture politics.47 But continued research on counterculture ideology is warranted, focusing in particular on hippie attitudes toward the state; socialism, anarchism, and libertarianism; myriad new social movements; and local politics.

The fixations on hippie lifestyles and counterculture politics have kept historians from more fully exploring the relationship between the counterculture and American corporate capitalism. Thomas Frank’s pioneering The Conquest of Cool established corporate co-optation as the dominant narrative about counterculture business. That narrative buttressed histories that depicted the counterculture as just one more shallow lifestyle defined by consumption.48 But recent historians have highlighted the entrepreneurial spirit of the counterculture, increasingly turning to the businesses created by hip capitalists, many of whom were committed to communitarian values, challenging the technocratic society, and developing “right livelihoods,” especially after 1968.49 This represents the most vibrant current direction of counterculture inquiry.

Other counter-institutions have also garnered recent attention. Histories of the underground press, Renaissance faires, street theater, and alternative publishing shed light on the institutionalization of the counterculture, a process central to its perpetuation.50 The historiography of the communal counterculture is vast but remains fixated on questions asked by social scientists a generation ago and warrants revisionist attention.51

Freak culture remains a vibrant area of inquiry. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll have all attracted reappraisals.52 But counterculture spirituality awaits a new synthesis.53 Meanwhile, biographies of Abbie Hoffman, Ken Kesey, and Augustus Owsley Stanley illuminate disparate individual experiences of counterculture communities.54 Alice Echols’s biography of Janis Joplin also enriches recent gender analyses, deepening the literature’s exploration of how women and men experienced the particular pressures of counterculture life.55 But more research on various forms of intersectionality within the counterculture—especially sexuality, class, and race—would illuminate the white, middle-class, heteronormative lifeways of the counterculture, frequently noted but infrequently explored counterculture realities.

Primary Sources

The essential primary sources on the 1960s counterculture are widely available. Consequently, the field is easily accessible to scholars at any stage of their careers, including undergraduates.

The underground press that ballooned after 1965 remains the best source on the counterculture. By 1968, most major cities had underground newspapers that documented local activism and counterculture activities; by 1970, most college towns followed suit. At the peak of underground circulation, between 1970 and 1972, several hundred underground newspapers operated in the United States. Early underground newspapers tended to emphasize the counterculture; by 1968 they increasingly emphasized political activism. Either way, underground newspapers form a remarkable set of sources, including articles by counterculture luminaries and anonymous locals, advertising from hip businesses, community message boards, and lurid personal ads. Underground newspapers have long been available on microfilm through Bell and Howell’s Underground Newspaper Collection. But Reveal Digital and a consortium of research libraries have partnered to digitize complete runs of over one thousand alternative publications. The Independent Voices project has already made twenty-three newspapers freely available online. But access is otherwise limited to participating libraries until January 2019, when the entire collection is scheduled to become open-access. This will immediately become both the most important and most accessible collection of counterculture primary sources. Meanwhile, Liberation News Service packets, which served as the radical counterpoint to the Associated Press, are useful sources despite skewing toward political rather than cultural radicalism. The Digger Archives, the Realist, and the Whole Earth Catalog occupied positions just outside the underground press and are distinctive counterculture artifacts.

Mainstream coverage of the counterculture was plentiful but should be used carefully by historians. National newspapers and magazines were drawn to counterculture exoticism and emphasized hippie extremism, a pattern most evident in coverage of the Summer of Love, the Haight-Ashbury’s dissolution, the Manson murders, the Altamont concert, and communal sexual and mystical experimentation. Too many scholars, even those explicitly critical of mainstream coverage, have allowed these sources to color their narratives. Either way, these sources remain useful for studying corporate co-optation in various guises. A few mainstream journalists, however, provided nuanced counterculture analyses, notably John Kifner, J. Anthony Lukas, and Nicholas von Hoffman.

Various published personal accounts of the counterculture complement media sources. Much of the ideological basis for the counterculture came from treatises penned by older intellectuals, including Paul Goodman, Herbert Marcuse, Norman Brown, Abbie Hoffman, Timothy Leary, Gary Snyder, Jerry Rubin, and Alan Watts. Novels, poetry, albums, art, and films too numerous to list are telling counterculture documents. Outsiders and participant observers produced a litany of nonfiction books and essays about the counterculture. The best of the popular variety are those of Tom Wolfe and Joan Didion; commune travelogues by Richard Fairfield and Robert Houriet are invaluable; participant observers like Judson Jerome and Ingrid Komar provided analytical treatments informed by personal participation; Theodore Roszak and Charles Reich published sympathetic contemporary analyses. The Lower East Side counterculture scene is documented in Ed Sanders’s Fug You, Osha Neumann’s Up against the Wall Motherf**ker, and the collection Black Mask and Up against the Wall Motherfucker. Cows are Freaky When They Look at You provides an unparalleled perspective on the underground drug market in Lawrence, Kansas, and Wild Child offers a distinctive approach to the communal counterculture by collecting the voices of young girls raised on counterculture communes. Communards have produced many memoirs. Emmett Grogan’s Ringolevio narrates his experiences with the Diggers. Raymond Mungo and Stephen Diamond wrote memoirs about their New England communes, which pair nicely with Home Comfort, a collection by Packer Corners communards. Stephen Gaskin wrote plentifully about the Farm; his books can be read alongside Voices from the Farm, which includes observations by many other Farm communards. Free Land, Free Love offers a similar spate of voices from Black Bear Ranch. Arthur Kopecky has published invaluable records of life at New Buffalo. And memoirs written many years later, especially Roberta Price’s Huerfano and Peter Coyote’s Sleeping Where I Fall, round out the best published primary sources.56

Because the counterculture was so diffuse, archival collections are widely dispersed. Many collections are of local interest, but few archives gather exhaustive collections. A handful of counterculture luminaries have major collections of papers housed at research libraries: Ken Kesey (University of Oregon); Stewart Brand and the Whole Earth Catalog (Stanford University); Timothy Leary (New York Public Library); John and Leni Sinclair (University of Michigan); Abbie Hoffman (University of Connecticut); and, less famously, Marshall Bloom (Amherst College). That list highlights the male bias pervasive in the historical record. Diverse records on the communal counterculture can be found at the Oregon Lesbian Land Manuscript Collections (University of Oregon); the Communal Studies Collection (University of Southern Indiana); the Famous Long Ago Collection (University of Massachusetts, Amherst); Twin Oaks Community Papers (University of Virginia); and the Lama Foundation Oral History Project (University of New Mexico). Additional collections relevant to counterculture historians include the Hippies Collection (San Francisco History Center); Students for a Democratic Society Papers (Wisconsin State Historical Society and microfilm); the Social Protest Collection (University of California, Berkeley); Liberation News Service Records (Temple University); the Haight Street Diggers Records (California Historical Society); and the Grateful Dead Archive (University of California, Santa Cruz).

Further Reading

Allyn, David. Make Love, Not War: The Sexual Revolution; An Unfettered History. Boston: Little, Brown, 2000.Find this resource:

    Anderson, Terry H. The Movement and the Sixties. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.Find this resource:

      Braunstein, Peter, and Michael William Doyle, eds. Imagine Nation: The American Counterculture of the 1960s and ’70s. New York: Routledge, 2002.Find this resource:

        Cox, Craig. Storefront Revolution: Food Co-ops and the Counterculture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1994.Find this resource:

          Davis, Joshua Clark. From Head Shops to Whole Foods: Activist Entrepreneurs since the 1960s. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017.Find this resource:

            Dodgson, Rick. It’s All a Kind of Magic: The Young Ken Kesey. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2013.Find this resource:

              Echols, Alice. Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin. New York: Metropolitan Books, 1999.Find this resource:

                Ellwood, Robert S. The Sixties Spiritual Awakening: American Religion Moves from Modern to Postmodern. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1994.Find this resource:

                  Farber, David. “Building the Counterculture, Creating Right Livelihoods: The Counterculture at Work.” The Sixties 6.1 (2013): 1–24.Find this resource:

                    Frank, Thomas. The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.Find this resource:

                      Hodgdon, Tim. Manhood in the Age of Aquarius: Masculinity in Two Countercultural Communities, 1965–83. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

                        Jarnow, Jesse. Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America. Boston: Da Capo, 2016.Find this resource:

                          Kirk, Andrew. Counterculture Green: The Whole Earth Catalog and American Environmentalism. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2007.Find this resource:

                            Kramer, Michael J. The Republic of Rock: Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

                              Lemke-Santangelo, Gretchen. Daughters of Aquarius: Women of the Sixties Counterculture. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2009.Find this resource:

                                McMillian, John. Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

                                  Miller, Timothy. The Hippies and American Values. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1991.Find this resource:

                                    Miller, Timothy. The 60s Communes: Hippies and Beyond. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1999.Find this resource:

                                      Peck, Abe. Uncovering the Sixties: The Life and Times of the Underground Press. New York: Pantheon, 1985.Find this resource:

                                        Perry, Charles. The Haight-Ashbury: A History. New York: Random House, 1984.Find this resource:

                                          Raskin, Jonah. For the Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.Find this resource:

                                            Rorabaugh, W. J. American Hippies. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

                                              Rossinow, Doug. The Politics of Authenticity: Liberalism, Christianity, and the New Left in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.Find this resource:

                                                Slonecker, Blake. A New Dawn for the New Left: Liberation News Service, Montague Farm, and the Long Sixties. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.Find this resource:

                                                  Smith, Sherry L. Hippies, Indians, and the Fight for Red Power. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

                                                    Turner, Fred. From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.Find this resource:

                                                      Zimmerman, Nadya. Counterculture Kaleidoscope: Musical and Cultural Perspectives on Life in Sixties San Francisco. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008.Find this resource:


                                                        (1.) Theodore Roszak, The Making of a Counter Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1969), 41.

                                                        (2.) David Farber, “Building the Counterculture, Creating Right Livelihoods: The Counterculture at Work,” The Sixties 6.1 (2013): 3.

                                                        (3.) Peter Braunstein and Michael William Doyle, “Historicizing the American Counterculture of the 1960s and ’70s,” in Imagine Nation: The American Counterculture of the 1960s and ’70s, eds. Peter Braunstein and Michael William Doyle (New York: Routledge, 2002), 10.

                                                        (4.) Quoted from Lyndon Johnson, “Will You Join in the Battle to Build the Great Society,” in Takin’ It to the Streets: A Sixties Reader, 4th ed., eds. Alexander Bloom and Wini Breines (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 93.

                                                        (5.) Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (New York: Norton, 1963).

                                                        (6.) Jonah Raskin, American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and the Making of the Beat Generation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004).

                                                        (7.) Jesse Jarnow, Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America (Boston: Da Capo, 2016); Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain, Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD, the CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond (New York: Grove, 1985); and Jay Stevens, Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream (New York: Grove, 1987).

                                                        (8.) David Allyn, Make Love, Not War: The Sexual Revolution; An Unfettered History (Boston: Little, Brown, 2000).

                                                        (9.) Rick Dodgson, It’s All a Kind of Magic: The Young Ken Kesey (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2013); and Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (New York: Bantam, 1968).

                                                        (10.) Charles Perry, The Haight-Ashbury: A History (New York: Random House, 1984).

                                                        (11.) Timothy Scott Brown, “The Sixties in the City: Avant-Gardes and Urban Rebels in New York, London, and West Berlin,” Journal of Social History 46.4 (2013): 817–842; and Conor Hannan, “‘We Have Our Own Struggle’: Up Against the Wall Motherfucker and the Avant-Garde of Community Action, the Lower East Side, 1968,” The Sixties 9.1 (2016): 115–144.

                                                        (12.) Joshua Clark Davis, “The Business of Getting High: Head Shops, Countercultural Capitalism, and the Marijuana Legalization Movement,” The Sixties 8.1 (2015): 27–49; and David Farber, “The Intoxicated State/Illegal Nation: Drugs in the Sixties Counterculture,” in Imagine Nation, eds. Braunstein and Doyle, 17–40.

                                                        (13.) Michael J. Kramer, The Republic of Rock: Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

                                                        (14.) Allyn, Make Love, Not War.

                                                        (15.) Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo, Daughters of Aquarius: Women of the Sixties Counterculture (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2009).

                                                        (16.) Tim Hodgdon, Manhood in the Age of Aquarius: Masculinity in Two Countercultural Communities, 1965–83 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009).

                                                        (17.) Mark Oppenheimer, Knocking on Heaven’s Door: American Religion in the Age of Counterculture (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003); and Larry Eskridge, God’s Forever People: The Jesus People Movement in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

                                                        (18.) Robert S. Ellwood, The Sixties Spiritual Awakening: American Religion Moves from Modern to Postmodern (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1994).

                                                        (19.) Philip Deloria, “Counterculture Indians and the New Age,” in Imagine Nation, eds. Braunstein and Doyle, 159–188; and Sherry L. Smith, Hippies, Indians, and the Fight for Red Power (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

                                                        (20.) John McMillian, Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Abe Peck, Uncovering the Sixties: The Life and Times of the Underground Press (New York: Pantheon, 1985); and Blake Slonecker, A New Dawn for the New Left: Liberation News Service, Montague Farm, and the Long Sixties (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

                                                        (21.) Rebecca E. Klatch, A Generation Divided: The New Left, the New Right, and the 1960s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

                                                        (22.) Terry H. Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).

                                                        (23.) Bradford D. Martin, The Theater Is in the Street: Politics and Public Performance in Sixties America (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2004).

                                                        (24.) Doug Rossinow, The Politics of Authenticity: Liberalism, Christianity, and the New Left in America (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998).

                                                        (25.) Jeff A. Hale, “The White Panthers’ ‘Total Assault on the Culture,’” in Imagine Nation, eds. Braunstein and Doyle 125–156.

                                                        (26.) Andrew Kirk, Counterculture Green: The Whole Earth Catalog and American Environmentalism (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2007).

                                                        (27.) Warren J. Belasco, Appetite for Change: How the Counterculture Took on the Food Industry, 1966–1988 (New York: Pantheon, 1989).

                                                        (28.) Slonecker, New Dawn for the New Left.

                                                        (29.) Barbara Epstein, Political Protest and Cultural Revolution: Nonviolent Direct Action in the 1970s and 1980s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).

                                                        (30.) Thomas Frank, The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997).

                                                        (31.) This section owes much to Farber, “Building the Counterculture.”

                                                        (32.) Davis, “Business of Getting High,” 29.

                                                        (33.) Nicholas G. Meriwether, “The Counterculture as Local Culture in Columbia, South Carolina,” in Rebellion in Black and White: Southern Student Activism in the 1960s, eds. Robert Cohen and David J. Snyder (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), 218–234.

                                                        (34.) Craig Cox, Storefront Revolution: Food Co-ops and the Counterculture (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1994).

                                                        (35.) Amy L. Scott, “Remaking Urban in the American West: Urban Environmentalism, Lifestyle Politics, and Hip Capitalism in Boulder, Colorado,” in The Political Culture of the New West, ed. Jeff Roche (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2008), 251–280.

                                                        (36.) This section owes much to Timothy Miller, The 60s Communes: Hippies and Beyond (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1999).

                                                        (37.) Mark Matthews, Droppers: America’s First Hippie Commune, Drop City (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010).

                                                        (38.) Smith, Hippies, Indians, 113–144.

                                                        (39.) Slonecker, New Dawn for the New Left.

                                                        (40.) Lemke-Santangelo, Daughters of Aquarius.

                                                        (41.) Seth E. Blumenthal, “Nixon’s Marijuana Problem: Youth Politics and ‘Law and Order,’ 1968–72,” The Sixties 9.1 (2016): 26–53.

                                                        (42.) Loren Glass, Counterculture Colophon: Grove Press, the Evergreen Review, and the Incorporation of the Avant-Garde (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013).

                                                        (43.) John Markoff, What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry (New York: Penguin, 2005); and Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006).

                                                        (44.) Belasco, Appetite for Change.

                                                        (45.) Many histories fit within this school, but the exemplar is Todd Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (New York: Bantam, 1987).

                                                        (46.) This revisionist historiography largely followed Rossinow, Politics of Authenticity.

                                                        (47.) Klatch, Generation Divided.

                                                        (48.) Belasco, Appetite for Change; Frank, Conquest of Cool.

                                                        (49.) Joshua Clark Davis, From Head Shops to Whole Foods: Activist Entrepreneurs since the 1960s (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017); Farber, “Building the Counterculture”; Meriwether, “Counterculture as Local Culture”; and Scott, “Remaking Urban.” This new historiographical wave follows the fine early study on food co-ops Cox, Storefront Revolution.

                                                        (50.) Glass, Counterculture Colophon; Martin, Theater; McMillian, Smoking Typewriters; Rachel Lee Rubin, Well Met: Renaissance Faires and the American Counterculture (New York: New York University Press, 2012); and Slonecker, New Dawn for the New Left.

                                                        (51.) For a fine synthesis of the communal counterculture, see Miller, 60s Communes. Useful case studies include Hodgdon, Manhood in the Age of Aquarius; Matthews, Droppers; and Slonecker, New Dawn for the New Left. The best treatment of communes in regional perspective are the essays collected in Iain Boal, Janferie Stone, Michael Watts, and Cal Winslow, eds., West of Eden: Communes and Utopias in Northern California (Oakland: PM, 2012). Early studies remain useful, including Bennett M. Berger, The Survival of a Counterculture: Ideological Work and Everyday Life among Rural Communards (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Robert Hourier, Getting Back Together (New York: Avon, 1971); Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Commitment and Community: Communes and Utopias in Sociological Perspective (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972); and Barry Laffan, Communal Organization and Social Transition: A Case Study from the Counterculture of the Sixties and Seventies (New York: P. Lang, 1997).

                                                        (52.) Allyn, Make Love, Not War; Jarnow, Heads; Kramer, Republic of Rock; and Nadya Zimmerman, Counterculture Kaleidoscope: Musical and Cultural Perspectives on Life in Sixties San Francisco (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008).

                                                        (53.) The best work on counterculture spirituality remains Ellwood, Sixties Spiritual Awakening.

                                                        (54.) Jonah Raskin, For the Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996); Dodgson, It’s All a Kind of Magic; and Robert Greenfield, Bear: The Life and Times of Augustus Owsley Stanley III (New York: Thomas Dunne, 2016).

                                                        (55.) Alice Echols, Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin (New York: Metropolitan Books, 1999); Hodgdon, Manhood in the Age of Aquarius; and Lemke-Santangelo, Daughters of Aquarius.

                                                        (56.) Wolfe, Electric Kool-Aid; Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1968); Richard Fairfield, Communes USA: A Personal Tour (Baltimore: Penguin, 1972); Houriet, Getting Back Together; Judson Jerome, Families of Eden: Communes and the New Anarchism (New York: Seabury, 1974); Ingrid Komar, Living the Dream: A Documentary Study of Twin Oaks Community (Norwood, PA: Norwood Editions, 1983); Roszak, Making of a Counter Culture; Charles Reich, The Greening of America (New York: Random House, 1970); Ed Sanders, Fug You: An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the Fuck You Press, the Fugs, and Counterculture in the Lower East Side (Boston: Da Capo Press, 2011); Osha Neumann, Up Against the Wall Motherf**ker: A Memoir of the ‘60s, with Notes for Next Time (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2008); Ron Hahne, ed., Black Mask and Up Against the Wall Motherfucker: The Incomplete Works of Ron Hahne, Ben Morea and the Black Mask Group (London: Unpopular Press, 1993); David Ohle, Roger Martin, and Susan Brosseau, Cows Are Freaky When They Look at You: An Oral History of the Kaw Valley Hemp Pickers (Wichita: Watermark Press, 1991); Chelsea Cain, ed., Wild Child: Girlhoods in the Counterculture (Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 1999); Emmett Grogan, Ringolevio: A Life Played for Keeps (Boston: Little, Brown, 1972); Raymond Mungo, Total Loss Farm: A Year in the Life (New York: Dutton, 1970); Stephen Diamond, What the Trees Said: Life on a New Age Farm (New York: Delacorte, 1971); Richard Wizansky, ed., Home Comfort: Stories and Scenes of Life on Total Loss Farm (New York: Saturday Review Press, 1973); Stephen Gaskin and the Farm, Hey Beatnik! This Is the Farm Book (Summertown, TN: Book Publishing Company, 1974); Rupert Fike, ed., Voices from the Farm: Adventures in Community Living (Summertown, TN: Book Publishing Company, 1998); Don Monkerud, Malcolm Terence, and Susan Keese, eds., Free Land, Free Love: Tales of a Wilderness Commune (Aptos, CA: Black Bear Mining and Publishing, 2000); Arthur Kopecky, New Buffalo (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004); Arthur Kopecky, Leaving New Buffalo Commune (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006); Roberta Price, Huerfano (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2004); and Peter Coyote, Sleeping Where I Fall: A Chronicle (Washington, DC: Counterpoint, 1998).