Counterculture Through The Ages

From Londonhua WIKI

The History of Counterculture

by Emily McEachern

The History of Counterculture
Milestone Image
Protest for human rights during the 1960s
Date November 22nd, 1963


This project aims to give an understanding of what counterculture is and its complexity through the use of examples found in history. Also, it attempts to identify the various countercultures of today. When people think of counterculture most of the time hippies and the 1960s will pop into their head, but time periods like the Enlightenment are also considered counterculture by its definition. I hope that after reading this project people will understand the complexity of counterculture in the 1960s as well as in other time periods. At WPI I have taken 2 History courses and 1 Philosophy course: HI 1332, HI 2332, and PY1731(Introduction to Philosophy and .


The goal of this project was to understand the complexity of counterculture and try to identify what the counterculture of today is. Many books have been written by historians about the history of counterculture but I wanted to give my own perspective on the subject. Counterculture can be purely political, cultural, or a combination of both so it is very important to be able to distinguish the different kinds of counterculture along with their methods and motivations when trying to understand a movement as a whole.

As a disclaimer, I understand that there are many more countercultures and subcultures of the present day that I did not mention in the deliverable section. If I had tried to include every single one I would certainly not have enough time, so I identified ones that were the most interesting to me. Similarly, I am also aware that there are many more countercultures throughout history that are not included in the background section and was not able to include each one for similar reasons.

Section 1: Background

What is Counterculture?

As a forewarning I would like to address that counterculture is an extremely complex subject and through this project I will only be able to just touch upon the surface of history's rich and plentiful countercultural movements. The definition I have given below cannot possibly cover all countercultures in history but it will cover the ones that I talk about throughout the rest of the project.

A counterculture "rejects or challenges mainstream culture or particular elements of it" [1]. Most modern countercultural actions aim to show opposition, disagreement, or rebellion towards the current culture in place. Counterculture is often displayed through protesting against a particular issue, rebelling against an established way of doing things, trying to overcome oppression, and even creating a new culture when the one in place becomes unsatisfying[1]. Methods used to express countercultural points of view are meant to promote action and provoke changes among people. Sometimes the unacceptability of counterculture is eventually taken as a normality by the general population and considered mainstream culture. An example of this is the Civil Rights Movement, because laws were created to give people of any race the same rights as Whites, as a direct result of the Movement.The Gay Liberation Movement had a similar effect on society, and as the Movement gained momentum people began accepting Gay people as normal people into society. However, it is true in both of these examples that counterculture is not accepted by everyone and some people today still look down upon groups like gay and Black people. So it is fair to say that all countercultures have the possibility to be accepted into mainstream society, but it will not happen to all countercultures. This also makes it very difficult to identify a counterculture until a few years after it has originated. It is also important to note that there are different kinds of counterculture, and this project will focus mainly on cultural and political counterculture. In the sections below I have included a few of the modern methods people use to express their countercultural point of view.



Demonstration in the 1960s

Demonstation is used as a way for people to come together to physically protest against a particular situation that they do not agree with[1]. Demonstrations can sometimes turn into violent riots, but in general they are one of the more peaceful forms of taking direct action against something. Peace protests have emerged to oppose the threat of war and even the development of dangerous technologies such as nuclear technology[1].

Civil Disobedience

Historically, the people participating in peace movements have been split on the decision whether to take more radical approaches of protest, like civil disobedience, or less radical ones like demonstration. Civil disobedience, like demonstration, is a form of direct action, but it differs from demonstration because laws are broken in order to force an issue onto a political stage[1]. People that agree with civil disobedience argue that small crimes, like the disruption of streets, are justified because they are protesting a much larger crime or issue, like war or environmental damages. However, in the eyes of authorities, the breaking of a law is never okay and participants of civil disobedience are often treated as trespassers.

In England, the philosopher Bertrand Russell was an advocate for civil disobedience and participated in sit-ins as a founder of the Committee of 100[1]. The Committee of 100 was organized to protest against the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons. The Committee believed that personal risk and responsibility were vital to successful movements. A sit-in uses disruptions to attract attention to their cause. During a sit-in protestors will sit in an area and refuse to move until their demands are met or they are removed by the authorities[1]. This method of protest was first used by Mahatma Gandhi and later adopted by others like Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement.

Civil disobedience was also used by some of Bertrand Russell's Committee of 100 in the 1960s to find out and expose secret government information. Calling themselves the Spies for Peace, they supported people breaking into military bases and finding classified military information.

Living Demonstration

An example of living demonstration is squatting. This is where a person occupies an empty property without the owner's permission or knowledge. To demonstrators, this method is both practical and symbolic because it gives a place for homeless people to live and also raises awareness to the issue of homelessness. The issue of homelessness in London has been controversial and taken seriously for a very long time. The development of the squatters movement, in the 1960s, relied on press coverage to get its message across, as do many living demonstration movements[1].


Motivation for disruption often involves opposition to mainstream political processes and consumer culture. In the 1990s, disruption developed certain specific characteristics like opposition to the car and its destructive qualities, and a focus on civil freedom and democratic rights[1]. During the 1990s English protesters took preventative measures such as camping on construction sites of new roads to stop them from being built. Dedicated protestors even began moving from one protest site/community to another, having no permanent home[1]. The people participating in this movement learned a lot from the squatters movement about how to get the attention of the media and how to avoid arrest. They eventually produced their own websites and other press about how to avoid arrest in a protest situation.

Underground Press

Issue 21 of Oz Magazine, and underground magazine in London in the 1960s

Underground Press in the UK began in October of 1966, when the first edition of the International Times was published. An article from the British Library writes, "The Underground Press didn't say what you thought, but it did somehow express what you felt" [1]. These publications aimed to express the growing counterculture of the 1960s in the UK where reporters wrote, with a very radical voice, about changing attitudes of young people. The underground press was given its name because it did not accept current, dominant cultural beliefs and when mainstream news carriers refused to sell the International Times, the writers and producers found young people to sell it to on the streets. Many of the underground papers were subject to police raids and were charged with obscenity and trying to corrupt public morals[1]. Even the layouts of the papers were hard to read, due to the business of the pages, and represented the counterculture of the time in a bold way.

Do it Yourself

"Do it Yourself" counterculture is all about stopping the consumption of the culture that was made for you and making your own culture. It is also a way to reject normal and accepted ways of expressing oneself and develop new methods for self-expression [1]. Fanzines, also known as "zines", became a popular form of expressing counterculture before websites became a medium of communication. The reason they became so popular is that they are not dependent on any kind of publisher, are not motivated by profit, and are not filtered through anything. They are not as regulated and monitored as many other similar digital media, making them attractive to people looking for a place to freely express themselves [1]. Zines became so popular because they could be completely controlled by the person who created them. This helped to prevent misinterpretation, a problem that many countercultures have faced when dealing with mainstream media and press. Today, zines are not used much at all and the ones that are may never actually reach an audience.

Examples of Counterculture in History

The above methods of expressing countercultural points of view are mainly from the mid to late 20th century, but counterculture can be identified for far longer than this throughout history. Both the Enlightenment and Romanticism were not only intellectual movements, but are also great examples of counterculture in history before the 20th century. Of course these two movements are dramatically different than more modern countercultural movements in their methods used to portray an idea, but they are still important to the history of counterculture.

The Enlightenment

One of the most significant intellectual movements, and countercultural movements, of history is the Enlightenment. Enlightenment thinkers, mostly white males, institutionalized many intellectual values leaving lasting impacts even on today's society. As a counterculture, the Enlightenment formalized rationalism and made liberty a "social contract", as Ken Goffman and Dan Joy write in their book Counterculture through the ages: from Abraham to acid house [2]. Prior to the Enlightenment, European countries were ruled by only a few aristocrats who believed they had the power to do what they wanted with the world, which according to them was given to them by God. The Enlightenment challenged these ideas and within 100 years, leaders of the time were allowing others to discuss and spread whatever new ideas they wanted to[2]. By the end of the Enlightenment works and writings with controversial ideas were no longer being as heavily banned by governments and institutions in comparison to the time before the Enlightenment and at the beginning of the movement.

The Enlightenment brought many new philosophical viewpoints including those of René Descartes, who proposed that reason could help people to understand the physical world. This kind of idea was revolutionary for the time and completely unlike previous medieval ideas[2]. Another philosopher, John Locke, went directly against the absolute monarchies of the time and stated that a government based on consent and majority ruling was the best way to govern a civil society[2]. Arguably, the most important intellectual from the enlightenment was Francis Bacon, who is credited with the creation of the philosophy of modern science and technology. His ideas were completely opposite of medieval points of view, which stated that God, angels, and Satan are constantly interfering in the real world[2]. Also according to medieval ideas, there is no way to change the world to increase human happiness because it is not possible to change God's plan[2]. Bacon completely disagreed with this concept and argued that the way to true knowledge is to study the complexities of the natural world.

In general, the freethinking of the Enlightenment makes it a counterculture to the long medieval ages that came before it. Enlightenment thinkers publicly emphasized their opposition to religious philosophies of the past through their writings and statements of their new ideas. Eventually, like many countercultures, the ideas of Enlightenment thinkers became accepted among the majority of society.


Shortly after the beginning of the French Revolution, the Romanticism movement among intellectuals from both Europe and America took off as a counterculture against the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment challenged medieval kings, the church, class structure, and many other aspects of the previous society while romantics were extremely opposed to modern rationalism, which was a main product of the enlightenment.

The Romantic Period was a time of serious changes, where violent revolutions were taking place in both Europe and America. Poets like William Blake and William Wordsworth felt that they were "chosen" to help people through this changing and confusing time[3]. At the beginning of the Romantic period, Romantic poets in general were supporters of the French Revolution but changed their minds as the Reign of Terror came into reality. Romantic poets emphasized the idea that the imagination could help people overcome their troubles and Percy Bysshe Shelley even declared that poets "are the unacknowledged legislators of the world"[3]. Contrary to the Enlightenment, Romantic work was deeply rooted in the individual rather than focused on society as a whole, and Romantics praised youth and innocence as being authoritative rather than those with age and experience. Romantics also believed that children held a special place in the world because of their innocent perspective[3]. In their writings the Romantics encouraged people to explore new places and made the world seem like it had unlimited opportunities for all.

Specific oppositions against the Enlightenment were shown through the introduction of the Gothic novel. One of the most famous Romantic novelists was Ann Radcliffe, whose work focused on struggling middle-class women who desired to see new places and inspiring landscapes[3]. Mary Shelley's famous work Frankenstein displays aspects of the Romantic movement, like the idea that scientific discoveries are driven by imagination, which is a direct contrast to that of the Enlightenment[3].

Indian Independence Movement

Prior 1917, when Mahatma Gandhi's leadership of the Indian National Congress(INC) began, movements against the British empire by the Indian people were not consistent and did not have much of an effect on the situation in the country. The Indian Independence movement took place from 1917 to 1947 with the INC at the head of the nonviolent protests[4]. Through Gandhi's leadership the INC went through many necessary changes, including alterations of their tactics for protest. Gandhi brought together both urban forces and the rural masses that were against the British occupation to challenge their colonial occupation. The INC adopted tactics of civil disobedience, nonviolent direct action, and noncooperation[4].

In 1919 the British Imperial government introduced a policy of dyarchy, which was the beginnings of local self-government. This policy gave administrative control to locally elected Indian officials[4]. Dyarchy also established an Imperial legislative government but with much less power than the local governments. In 1937 this policy was abolished, but India did not gain independence and remained under British control[4].

Gandhi during the salt march

Gandhi reasoned with the INC that acts of civil disobedience would only be effective if they were carried out by large numbers of people, so the INC spread to have branches of the congress in each district of British India[4]. Civil disobedience was extremely popular with the Indian people and movements like the resistance campaign in 1917 and the anti-Rowlatt Bill satyagraha in 1919 were very successful[4]. The anti-Rowlatt Bill or the Rowlatt Act was passed by the Imperial Legislative Council which extended the measures of preventative indefinite detention and incarceration without trial and judicial review. The first mass national nonviolent movement was called the Noncooperation Movement and took place from 1920-1922. The NCM was a series of local protests and as a result the 1920s was focused on forming relationships between urban nationalists in India and the smaller rural communities[4]. These newly formed connections improved rural participation in mass protest and civil disobedience in the 1930s. The most successful movement made by the INC was the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) from 1930-1934. This movement began with the salt March, which was a 240 mile walk where Gandhi was arrested for public display of salt making[4]. Salt making was illegal in India because special taxes were imposed on imported salt by the British East India Company in order to allow them to keep control over the salt trade. This tax was publicly hated by the Indian public and as an act of Civil Disobedience people made their own salt or bought salt illegally. Gandhi's arrest launched massive acts of Civil Disobedience and within the first year of the CDM over 60,000 people had been arrested[4].

By 1934 the CDM ended due to an increase in repression by the Government of India. The use of nonviolence during the CDM brought many local successes and showed the immense power of the opposition but noncooperation tactics did not directly pressure the British to leave India. Acts of Civil Disobedience led by Gandhi and the INC, left the INC in a good position to negotiate with the British empire[4].

The Indian Independence movement is a counterculture because the Indian people of the movement were trying to overcome their oppression form the rule of the British Imperial government. They believed that they deserved independence and freedom which was the opposite view of their oppressors.

1960s counterculture

The rest of the background for this project will be focused on the complex counterculture of the 1960s. Many different countercultural movements emerged in the 1960s, and are very much related to each other, but they all fall under different categories of counterculture. Some were more political, while others are purely cultural, and some were a mix of both political and cultural motivations. Distinguishing between these differences is extremely important so I have separated the movements into 3 categories: mainly political, mainly cultural, and a combination of both political and cultural.

Political Counterculture

For this project the definition of political counterculture that I will be using is a counterculture where people aim to go against a government institution, as well as the actions of that institution, with the hope of improving society.

Antiwar Movement

As the Vietnam war progressed, opposition to the war of the general public in America grew substantially. Both mass demonstrations organized by national groups and more local protests were important to the movement's efforts[5]. Groups like the American Friends Service Committee, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, and the Women Strike for Peace were some of the main political groups involved in the movement[5]. Many protestors believed that the Vietnam War took too many resources from other more important foreign interests and relations, and they used methods like peaceful protest to try to get the government to negotiate a settlement with Vietnam instead of continuing the war[5]. The antiwar movement was made up of many different political groups. Radicals of this movement often used civil disobedience to protest many government actions of the U.S. and believed that electoral politics were unproductive. Pacifists that were part of this movement questioned the U.S. Cold War Policy. A small part of the antiwar movement was made up of Leftists. Leftists favored peaceful demonstrations to express their demands of the immediate removal of the U.S. from Vietnam[5]. There was a lot of distrust among these three groups, complicating the antiwar movement[5].

The antiwar movement started as a series of "teach-ins" on college campuses and the University of Michigan attracted a lot of attention when three thousand people attended a series of lectures on the Vietnam War in 1965[5]. Antiwar movements on college campuses began to become intertwined with civil rights issues and other social issues of the times. The movement in 1965 only represented a small part of the American population's beliefs but it attracted a lot of attention due to the media coverage of mass demonstrations[5]. Activists of this movement were often of the middle class and very well educated and the crowds of the mass demonstrations were made up of many college students.The military draft also contributed to the antiwar movement and many people resisted the draft both legally and illegally[5].

Photo from the Women's march against the Vietnam War

The antiwar movement gained a negative image among moderate people of the country due to the Government's attacks on the movement. The presence of hippie countercultural clothing and styles among many people of the movement also made many moderates more than hesitant to join the movement[5]. Government and administrative officials also accused the antiwar movement as being controlled by communists, also hindering its popularity[5].

The expansion of the war into Cambodia in 1970 caused the movement to explode with protests in reaction to the controversial decision[5]. Protests on college campuses became dangerous and 5 people were even killed on the Kent State University campus after National Guardsman fired into the crowd[5]. Polls at the time showed that most Americans actually supported the decision to move into Cambodia, but the increase in protest created a predicament for the government[5]. Protests continued until the official conclusion of the war and eventually the public accepted the purpose of the movement even though it rejected the people that participated in the movement.

"Cultural" Counterculture

Countercultures do not have to necessarily be politically based, some are just purely rejection of the mainstream culture currently in place, like the hippie movement of the 1960s.

Hippie Movement

The "hippie movement" was very popular among young people, especially young Americans under the age of 30 during the 1960s. There was an "atmosphere of the brotherhood of man, idealism, relaxed sexual mores, and a disinclination to support the war in Vietnam" [6]. Hippie counterculture is often linked to the anti Vietnam war movement of the same time period but it is important to note that they are also very separate. The hippie movement was much more cultural than the antiwar movement, which was mainly political. It is also important to note that the hippie counterculture did not involve all young men and women, there were millions of young people in America who were focused on other aspects of the 1960s like the growing space program and the cost of gasoline[6].

Poster from the popular hippie music festival Woodstock in 1969

Hippies were known for promoting the use of recreational drugs, like marijuana and LSD specifically. Even hippies that didn't use marijuana promoted its uses and benefits to other people [7]. Hippies did have distinctions between good and bad drugs as well, they believed psychedelic drugs were good while drugs that made a person "dumb" were bad. The vast majority of hippies pushed for legalization of marijuana, because they believed that everyone should have access to substances that will expand the mind. To hippies "dope" was a form of mental pleasure, and similarly sex was a form of physical pleasure. Their attitudes on sex helped to revolutionize the views on sex of the entire Untied States[7]. Rock n' Roll was also an extremely important part to the hippie movement. For hippies, rock wasn't just music, it was a way of life and the underground press during the 60s had a substantial focus on rock[7].

Famous image of a man putting flowers in the gun of a National Guardsman

From a British person's perspective, the hippie movement in the UK was much less intense than it was in the U.S., according to Christopher Sanford. He wrote,"what this mainly seems to have meant was some very silly shirts, marginally better food (thanks to new European trade laws), and a slight increase in the use and availability of soft drugs"[6]. He also says that for most young people not much really changed and people continued playing cricket, knitting, and worrying about their exams and the "sex, drugs, and rock n' roll" aspects of the 60s did not take over their lives[6].

A Mix of Both

Some countercultures, like the Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Liberation Front, attempted to oppose government directly to create change but also have cultural aspects to them as well.

Civil Rights Movement in the United States

The Civil Rights Movement began in the 1950s and continued into the 1960s where it gained immense momentum and caused much needed changes in racial laws. Black Americans and their allies in the 60s were protesting to get the rights they deserved and obtain acceptance as part of mainstream America[8].

An important beginning to the Civil Rights Movement was the Jim Crow laws and system, which made Blacks and Whites completely separated from each other. On a "Jim Crow bus" there was a Black and a White section and it was one of the places where Blacks and Whites were separated but still in full view of each other[8]. The Black community of Baton Rouge began a bus boycott in 1953 and for ten days there was not a single Black passenger on any of the buses in Baton Rouge[8]. In the mid 1950s there were many local movement centers in places like Baton Rouge, Montgomery, and Birmingham which created a diverse confrontations and protests in the South.

Photo from a protest against bus segregation

Reverend Martin Luther King became a leader in the Civil Rights Movement and helped to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference(SCLC)[8]. King had the ability to call people together according to Ella Baker, the SCLC's first Associate Director[8]. He was also regarded as the main symbol of the struggle of Blacks at the time trying to overcome oppression. King adopted strategies of Civil Disobedience which greatly contributed to the success of the movement.

One of the most famous of King's writings is his Letter from a Birmingham Jail which he wrote on April 16th, 1963 after being arrested on April, 12th. This letter aims to defend the strategies of using nonviolence in the fight against racism and segregation. He wrote this letter as a response to a statement published by eight white clergymen that attacked King's methods.

Photo from the March on Washington in 1963

In the letter King writes,"In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action" [9]. He says that "we", referring to the black community involved in the Movement, have done all of the steps in Birmingham and claims that it is probably the most segregated of all of the cities in America[9]. He addresses the clergymens questions about using negotiation over direct action and says that direct action is used to create a crisis situation in a community so that negotiation becomes necessary[9]. This is very similar to techniques used by Gandhi during the Indian independence movement, where the INC used direct action and civil disobedience and was later able to come to a point of negotiation. King argues that they are trying to do something very similar to this idea. He also addresses claims from the clergymen that the actions of the Movement have been "untimely" in Birmingham[9]. King writes that he has never participated in a direct action campaign with good timing and waiting for justice is just the same as denying justice[9]. He also writes about the difference between just and unjust laws saying that laws can be just but are applied unjustly. He also says that a person can break an unjust law if they do it openly and are willing to accept the punishments of their actions[9]. He also writes in the letter that,"Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro"[9]. The writing in this letter was a powerful force for the Civil Rights Movement and clearly reflects the goals and aims of the Movement as a whole. Directly opposing the accepted culture of segregation and discrimination of the time, makes this a very political counterculture. However the Civil Rights Movement also had many cultural aspects to it as well.

An important cultural aspect to the Civil Rights Movement was the songs and music of the Movement. African Americans have used song as a way to protest and resist oppression since the time of slavery. Activists during the Civil Rights Movement searched for effective ways of communication consistent with their ideals, and turned to song as a result[10]. One activist recalled the movement by saying "the movement without songs would have been like birds without wings"[10]. The freedom songs of the Movement produced strong feelings of power among the activists of the movement.

Gay Liberation Front

One very important movement that began in the 1960s was the Gay Liberation movement. This movement was led by young people who worked with organizations like the Mattachine Society, the Society for Individual Rights, and the Council on Religion and the Homosexual[11]. Activists of this time period were working to abolish the idea that homosexuality was a sickness, which was a normal and accepted idea of the time[11]. These groups were aiming to help gay men and women by providing social services, fighting discrimination, and developing a new, positive gay culture in American cities. This was a completely revolutionary idea, and the 1960s made many advances that helped the movement grow in the future. After a riot in a bar in Greenwich Village in New York City in 1969, known as the Stonewall riot, The Gay Liberation Front was formed and in only 4 years there were over 800 gay organizations in the U.S.[11]. The political activism of the time was marked by this expanse in support for the gay liberation movement.


The Gay Liberation movement continued into the 1970s and in 1971 the Gay Liberation Front published their manifesto in London. The purpose of this manifesto was to explain to the general population that homosexuals were oppressed and what the aims of their movement were. The introduction of the manifesto says, "Homosexuals, who have been oppressed by physical violence and by ideological and psychological attacks at every level of social interaction, are at last becoming angry." [12] Homosexual people of the 1960s and 1970s felt that they needed to fight against their oppression and claim their rights as other groups had in the past. The document also explained the many ways that gay people were oppressed like through school, the media, the law, and even physical violence among many other things [12]. The manifesto explains why they are oppressed, stating "There are only these two stereotyped roles into which everyone is supposed to fit, and most people-including gay people too-are apt to be alarmed when they hear these stereotypes or gender roles attacked" [12]. According to the manifesto gay people were oppressed in the 1960s because they did not fit into gender roles of the family dynamic. The rest of the manifesto focuses on what the movement will do to change their situation and the new life that gay people will have once discrimination against them no longer has a place in society.

This countercultural movement is both a political and cultural one. The Gay Liberation Front sought to make homosexuals accepted in general society but also to give them the same rights as straight people through the establishment of laws of equality.

Section 2: Deliverable

Today's Countercultural Movements

EDM culture

After doing research about the hippie movement of the 1960s, I have seen parallels to a group of today's youth, Electronic Dance Music Festival attendees. Electronic Dance Music, or EDM, is an increasingly popular style of music in today's culture. This newer type of music is often frowned upon by older people for its loud noise and disruptive nature as well as the drug culture that comes along with it. Like rock music in the 60s, EDM is exploding among today's youth. Many people are attributing this to the desire of millennials to break away from the generation of their parents[13]. In my opinion, the listeners of EDM have less of a meaning to their movement than hippies of the 60s did but the general idea of going against what is accepted and mainstream is somewhat similar. The demographics of these two groups are similar as well, both groups mainly consist of college students that are fairly well educated.

With EDM music comes music festivals, like the very popular festivals Ultra, Electric Daisy Carnival, and Coachella. Like Woodstock, people camp out in large fields for these festivals to listen to new music and experiment with drugs. As you can see from the two pictures below Woodstock and Coachella are very similar on a visual level. At first when I found these two photos I assumed their similarities were just a coincidence, but after looking at so many photos from the two festivals, the visual similarities are irrefutable. It is very possible that the photos from today's EDM festivals were posed to look the same as those from Woodstock, but it could also just be a coincidence. Again I am definitely not saying that Woodstock and today's music festivals are the same at all but I am saying that today's festival culture is a counterculture because it is going against the cultural norm.

With the increase in popularity of EDM music and festivals, has come an increase in use of recreational drugs. Established culture frowns upon the use of illegal drugs like cocaine and MDMA (known as ecstasy or molly) but these drugs are very popular among festival goers in today's world. Marijuana and alcohol are also often used by attendees of EDM festivals.

Some people refer to today's EDM culture as a "revival of the hippie movement" but I would not go as far as saying this. The hippie movement is known for making new "weird" music, in the form of rock, and experimenting with psychedelic drugs[7]. Today, the new, weird music is EDM and the drugs are MDMA and cocaine. On a surface level these two movements look pretty similar, but if you think about the motivations behind the hippie movement, EDM festival culture can't compare. Hippies promoted peace and used drugs to expand their minds and consciousness, not drugs like cocaine that will make people "dumb"[7] while the youth of today are careless with their drug use at music festivals causing illnesses and deaths to result. At one EDM festival in New York, 22 people became ill and 2 of them unfortunately died, and after investigations it was found that 95% of them were under the influence of drugs or alcohol[14]. This careless use of drugs is only one example of how today's EDM culture is certainly not a revival of the hippie movement.

Despite these differences, the EDM culture is a countercultural movement because at its beginnings there was nothing like it in the mainstream culture and wasn't accepted by many. Though today it is certainly on its way to becoming mainstream, and may already be considered mainstream by some people.


Another interesting counterculture of today is Neo-Luddism. Someone who is a Neo-Luddite rejects the use of modern technology and "resists its dominance over our daily lives"[15]. Today technology is ubiquitous, so I have trouble understanding the ability of Neo-Luddites to live in a normal society. The movement of neo-luddism does not have a clear leader and is made up of non-affiliated or loosely affiliated groups calling for the ending of the development of new technologies[15]. Some groups like the Amish or Mennonites are considered Neo-Luddites but some writers, environmentalists, and families may not be affiliated with any group but still fall under the category of Neo-Luddism. There may be no clear leader of the movement but I have come across in my research a woman named Chellis Glenndinning, who wrote Notes toward a Neo-Luddite Manifesto in 1990.

Glenndinning begins the manifesto by writing about Luddites of the 19th century and their opposition to the growing emphasis on progress. 19th century Luddites supported "an older, more decentralized one espousing the interconnect- edness of work, community, and family through craft guilds, village networks, and townships" [16]. She explains the Neo-Luddites feel "barraged by technology" and cites examples of what people all over the world are doing to protest technology, like smashing televisions and computers[16]. Later in the document she outlines the principles of Neo-Luddism and the first principle is that the movement is not anti-technology, they only oppose technologies that are destructive to human lives. The second principle is that they believe all technologies are political, too controlled by corporations, and are strictly for their benefit[16].

Another interesting part of the document is the "Program for the Future" section, which calls for the "dismantling" of destructive technologies in order to prevent destruction of life[16]. Glenndinning calls for the dismantling of nuclear, chemical, genetic engineering, and electromagnetic technologies as well as a few other types of technologies. She wrote that television must be dismantled because it is a "centralized mind-controlling force" and is destructive to the environment[16]. While Neo-Luddites wish for these technologies to be destroyed they support the creation of technologies that are for the benefit of life on Earth, while combining politics, morality, ecology, and "technics"[16].

Neo-Luddism is so opposite of today's mainstream views on technology that it cannot possibly be ignored when talking about modern counterculture. It is not as big or as organized as other modern countercultural movements of today but I believe it is still important to be talked about. People today may be a little bit scared by the rapid advancement of technology, but most don't condemn useful technologies that have the ability to cure sick people or ones that allow humans to communicate with people on the other side of the world in only a few seconds. Neo-Luddites today are also worried about hackers sabotaging the world's networks and the possibility of cyber warfare.[15] This worry is at the back of many people's minds that are not Neo-Luddites, but the difference between these people and Neo-Luddites is that they take this worry to an extreme and call for the dismantling of many technologies that are vital to the health and safety of the human race.


Through this project I have attempted to give a definition to the concept of counterculture and identify many examples of countercultural movements throughout history. I have also identified two countercultural movements of today, EDM culture and Neo-Luddism. I originally thought that today's EDM culture and the hippie movement of the 1960s were very similar to each other, but after completing my research I realize these similarities are only on a surface level and the motivations behind the two movements are dramatically different. While I didn't find any direct parallels between Neo-Luddism and anything that I researched for background information I felt that it was important to include this movement as a counterculture of today because of its severe contrast with today's widely accepted views on technology.

After completing this project I have learned that counterculture is a much more complex topic than I originally thought and I hope that this is clear to the readers of the project. Also, I am very aware that there are a large number of countercultures and subcultures of today that I did not write about. In the future more in-depth research could be completed about the countercultures that I have already mentioned and other ones not identified in this project.


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