Wednesday, 27 June 2007

So, what is counter culture anyway?

The term 'counter culture' was coined by Theodore Roszac in 1968. Roszac used the term to refer to those western left-leaning youths and a few of their older mentors who challenged what he saw as the Technocracy (as Roszac defined it: 'that social form in which an industrial society reaches the peak of its organizational integration'). Roszac noted that, unlike previous revolutionary movements, the counter culture operated during a time of plenty (between 1942 and 1972), as opposed to the times of dearth more commonly associated with revolutionaries - such as the sans culottes of the French Revolution. Roszac also associated the movement with the middle-class youth, those best equipped to challenge the political status quo from a position of relative economic security. These leftist youths of the 'middling sort' eschewed traditional methods of resistance, which would only have co-opted them into the Technocracy, but rather offered an alternative communal lifestyle where every act could be an act of resistance.

My usage of the term 'counter culture' is much wider. I use it to refer to any movement which promotes a lifestyle that is a direct challenge to the socio-political norms. This usage allows me to include movements and groups that emerged in a variety of societies and economic conditions, such as the Diggers during the British Republic. What makes a counter culture, as far as I am concerned, is the choice of lifestyle as resistance; a lifestyle which is independent of the wider politics of the day.

Sources: T. Roszac, The Making Of A Counter Culture (1995 edition) [pdf]

3 comments:

RockStories said...

Thanks for clarifying your definition. As a person who has often worked for political causes typically termed "liberal" and who is also a "hard core Catholic", I've been fascinated to discover that both groups these activities bring me in contact with consider themselves to be counter-culture, and consider the other to hold and represent certain views and practices they see as the current social norm.

Is "counter-culture" a desirable designation that some groups want to co-opt, or does the perception of "social norm" differ that radically (with everyone thinking that what he disagrees with is the norm)? I don't know the answer, but it's an intriguing question worthy of consideration.

Stepterix said...

Thank you for your comment rockstories....

I think that 'counter-culture' implies hippies for many people, and that may make it an undesirable designation for some of them...

I think that counter-culture groups define themselves against an assumed norm like 'bourgeois society' or the like... as long as a group can agree on what they are not, it helps them to define who they are

Ian Thal said...

I read Roszac's book several years ago and was quite taken with the analysis it gave to the political and cultural forces at work during my childhood and how many of these trends that had developed withing the '50s and '60s counter culture had developed into the milleu within which I existed as an adult.