A counterculture is a culture of a group of people, particularly among the young, whose values and lifestyles are considerably different and often diametrically opposed to those established culture. It tends to grow and peak early then decline rapidly, leaving a long lasting impact on mainstream cultural values. The Bohemianism began in 1850 and Hippie counterculture of the 1960s are some prominent examples of countercultures.
Bohemianism: Beginnings of a movement
The roots of the hippie subculture can be found in many different European subcultures from as early as the 1900s, some even before. However, none were more influential than the bohemian movement which had its origins in the roving and enigmatic Romani people whom were believed to have migrated to France from the kingdom of Bohemia.
A bohemian was typically someone whom gave up any privileges and sentimental ties common in society to live a aloof and mostly solitary life with a focus on the arts and other creative enterprises. Bohemians were usually writers, artists, musicians, journalists and many of them became popular with the term. Bohemians typically espoused communal living, sexual freedom (the roots or origins of “Free love”), political aloofness, creative endeavors and sharing of resources, such as food, clothing and bedding.
Often, in the inception of the term, a bohemian or boheme was simply an artist or traveling writer with some implication of arcane wisdom or enlightenment. In its early stages, as much as in the latter, there was little to no negative connotation associated with the term as there is, even to this day, with hippies.
There were many different terms for various different kinds of bohemians. The most common and well-known type is probably beat. Beat bohemians were those whom were most non-materialistic and almost wholly focused on art. They were drifters with no fixed residence and usually were thought of as people whom “played it cool” and kept a low profile.
There were other types of bohemian as well such as the Dandy whom had little to no money but always attempted to convince people otherwise by displaying moderately expensive items such as high-end liquor bottles about their homes. Then there was the Gypsy – a wandering expatriate who were often more focused on politics than the beats. There were also a type called the Nouveau. Those were rich and upper class people whom wished to join the bohemian movement usually without giving up their possessions and money. Often times they were thought of as posers. Most recently, there was the Zen bohemian who focused more on spirituality than art, somewhat of a large deviation from the origins of the movement where religion, politics and spirituality played a marginal role, or not at all.
Spread to America
One of the first well-known bohemians in America was Maxwell Bodenheim who came to be known as the King of Greenwich Village. He was a prolific writer and jazz enthusiast which won him much acclaim during the “Swinging Twenties.”
The movement became more prominent in the later twenties with other emerging artistic luminaries such as Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and L. Ferlinghetti. The 1940s saw the hipsters and the 1950s saw the rise of the beats, that class to which Ginsburg, Kerouac and Burroughs all belong, at least at some point in time.
The counterculture became much more widespread during the 1960s due to the ever increasing social unrest and political outpouring about African-American Civil Rights, women’s rights, human sexuality and especially the Vietnam War, together with the emergence of new technology such as radio, cinema and television.
Counterculture of the 1960s
Counterculture of the 1960s refers to a cultural shock-wave that started in the United States and United Kingdom in the early 1960s and spread across the Western cultures until the early 1970s consisting of anti-embellishment beliefs and actions. There were many different facets and factions of the general movement but most were characterized by a general distrust of government, the notion of free love, the mind altering use of psychedelic drugs and a idealized notion of freedom. During the movement, Hippies became the largest and most prominent countercultural group in the States.
Most people have a very solid notion of what a hippie is and it probably involves long hair, goofy looking, over-sized glasses and multicolored bell-bottoms. This notion gained a lot of popularity especially in the beginning of the movement in the mid 1960s.