Community at the Edge of
Chaos: The Dead’s Cultural
HORACE L. FAIRLAMB
For me, the lame part of the Sixties was the political part, the
social part. The real part was the spiritual part.
—Jerry Garcia (Rolling Stone interview, #566, 11/30/1989, p. 73)
We would all like to able to live an uncluttered life, a simple life,
a good life … and think about moving the whole human race
ahead a step … or a few steps.
—Jerry Garcia (interview, Anthem to Beauty, Rhino VHS, 1997)
Everyone knows that the 1960s was a decade of idealism, activism, and social upheaval. What it all meant, however, has never been clear. Where the liberals took credit for its political successes, and where conservatives renounced each and every excess, the counterculture radicals have been dismissed, misunderstood, or marketed for nostalgia. According to one standard view, the counterculture was a Utopian illusion born at Woodstock and buried at Atlamont. More charitably, some say that the counterculture was a political failure but a cultural success: Marx and Mao are out, but alternative identities and diverse subcultures are in. The culture-politics dichotomy was codified early on by the contrast between Hippies and Yippies—the drop-outs versus the radicals, the stoners versus the bomb-throwers. But it oversimplifies the counterculture to enforce the separation of politics and culture. For many in the counterculture, what was most radical about their vision was