Mainstream and Counter-culture (1960's)

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The Mainstream and Counter-culture in the 1960's
The Politics of Affluence
The Great Depression had reduced many American to poverty so they then became
cautious in holding onto their wealth, fearing depression could strike again.
Many white Americans then became suspicious of anything that would improve the
lives of AA's.
The affluence of this period made the M/C feel more secure and so less anxious
about greater opportunities for AA's.
Young people also became affected by the affluence period. `Baby boomers' had
never known poverty or economic depression.
They then became less materialistic and more interested in political issues; therefore,
while they consumed more, they were more willing to make sacrifices for a good
Youth idealism was sometimes expressed in the counterculture and the liberal
politics and idealism of Kennedy's presidency.
Liberal Politics
Kennedy's `New Frontier'
Kennedy was an inspirational figure and launched a number of ground-breaking
initiatives that appealed to the ambition and optimism of young people.
In 1961, Kennedy established the Peace Corps, an organisation which sent volunteers
to work in developing countries.
He also committed the government to a multi-billion dollar space programme to
send a man to the moon.
These projects appealed to the ideals of self-sacrifice and ambition and showed the
President looked towards future challenges. Both programmes were very successful.
1966, 15,000 + volunteers worked overseas in the Peace Corps and in 1969, Apollo
successfully landed on the moon.
Kennedy's domestic policies were not as spectacular. his vision for America was
called `The New Frontier', aimed for better healthcare and increase funding for
Kennedy was forced to work with a congress dominated by Republicans and
conservative southern Democrats who blocked many of Kennedy's policies e.g. his
Medical Health Bill.
Johnson's `Great Society'
Lyndon B. Johnson also had a vision of a more equal society. He wanted USA to be a
`Great Society' as well as a rich one.
He believed the government should use some of America's new-found wealth to
improve the lives of poor Americans.
1964-66, Johnson passed 435 bills which used $1.5B to improve schools and $2.9B to
regenerate America's inner citis.
His 1965 Social Security Act guaranteed free healthcare for people aged 65+.
The Failure of Liberalism

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Kennedy and Johnson both spoke of a more fair society, but neither was able to
deliver the reform that idealistic young Americans wanted.
Johnson had more success on Civil Rights than Kennedy but the Vietnam War
distracted his attention and diverted government money from his `Great Society'
The Vietnam War also alienated many young idealists who had initially supported
Kennedy and Johnson.
Mass Culture
Media Culture
1950's and 60's saw an emergence of a mass American culture where music, books,
newspapers, films and T.…read more

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America's counterculture was not a coherent movement. It was made up of hippies,
and Black Panther, Feminists and Peaceniks. As a result, there was no shared set of
They did all believe that on 2 things;
I. America was corrupt and the ideas of politicians like peace, justice and
freedom were just empty words. They believed that in reality, America was an
unfree and unjust society with the people in power wanting to keep it so.
II.…read more

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The Beatles dominated the 1960's music scene: who also worried conservative
Americans as there album, `Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band' was clearly
influenced by hallucinogenic drugs.
Films and novels that appealed to young people often focused on a mismatch
between the young heroes and the society they found themselves in.
James Dean and Marlon Brando specialised in playing attractive outsiders.
1955 film Rebel without a Cause, James Dean played a teenager who rejects the
authority of his parents and school teachers.…read more

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Students at the University of California, Berkeley had a reputation for radical politics,
and set up a second group of SDS. 10% of students had taken part in civil rights
protests between 1960 and 1964.
· The University banned political leaflets on October 1st 1964. Mario Savio became the
leader of the Free Speech Movement (FSM) to fight this ban. Savio was very critical
of American society.
· SDS had very little support before 1965.…read more

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US citizens supported the war in 1968, and of those that didn't many thought
that the anti-war protests were unpatriotic and undermined the troop's efforts in
· The US government were not affected by the protestors. Johnson sent more troops
to Vietnam.
· The media also refused to criticise the war prior to 1969. TV networks supported the
war and didn't broadcast upsetting footage. Only 76 out of the 2300 news
programmes showed dead or wounded soldiers between 1965 and 70.…read more


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