Countercultures and the United States


There is evidence of countercultures springing forth in one form or another since the dawn of human history. The United States is a fertile country for countercultures to develop because of its ideals of individuality and freedom. In many ways it is through the counterculture that we may begin to examine the deeper threads of society and its institutions and see alternative ways of being that are outside the scope of our own microcosms.

If you are interested in learning about different American countercultures we have some great resources at the library to start your research.

American Countercultures: An Encyclopedia of Nonconformists, Alternative Lifestyles, and Radical Ideas in U.S. history is a great place to start. This series of books is housed in the Reference Collection and has many detailed entries on such figures as Emma Goldman and the Anarchists, the Civil Rights Movement, the New Left, and the various communes that have emerged throughout American history.

In today’s era when most people think of counterculture they think of the Hippies and the Student Movements of the late 1960’s to the 1970’s. There were many reasons for their birth but the collapse of the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War and the corruption of the United States Government during this era were most likely the kindles that sparked the flame. What is now the object of nostalgia and commercial exploitation was at one time a powerful force in this country. If you are interested in what these people believed you might be interested in a book entitled Voices From The Love Generation. This book is a great collection of interviews from the height of the 1960’s counterculture.

Many countercultural revolutionaries and hippies moved away from the cities and developed communes and co-ops throughout rural America though some established vibrant communes in the inner city. This occurrence tied in with the emerging Ecology Movement. To explore communes check out Co-ops, Communes & Collectives: Experiments in Social Change in the 1960s and 1970s.

In our New Book Section one can find an array of books on counterculture and radicalism in the United States. A wonderful new purchase is called Protest Nation: Words That Inspired a Century of American Radicalism. In this book you will find speeches and writings of great American thinkers and revolutionaries such as Abbie Hoffman, Malcolm X, and Harvey Milk.

As citizens of the United States we always seem to be living in times of change. This is most obvious when one reflects on the Tea Party movement and the recent Occupy Wall Street protests. It is through different ideas and being an informed citizen that we may come to question how we as individuals live in the world and how we can begin to affect positive change.