Dissent in the Heartland: The Sixties at Indiana University

By Mary Ann Wynkoop | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Bloomington and the
Counterculture in
Southern Indiana

When most students think about the 1960s, they usually think of hippies, or, in academic language, the counterculture. The stereotypical hip lifestyle that embraced “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” has become powerfully associated with that decade. Like most stereotypes, it has some truth, but there is also much more to the story of the Sixties counterculture.

One of the most important aspects of the hip movement is its connections with earlier expressions of dissent from mainstream America. Many American historians find the hippies’ ancestors in the bohemians of the 1920s, and most would agree that the 1960s counterculture was the direct descendant of the 1950s Beat movement. All of these groups of writers and thinkers challenged the values and institutions of the majority of American citizens. And, since America was created by a group of revolutionaries who challenged British values and institutions, nothing could be more American than these various expressions of cultural rebellion.1

Yet the work ethic continued to maintain a powerful hold on the minds of most Americans. Individualism, materialism, and commercialism were and are the trinity of our conception of success. Those who proposed an alternative vision of communalism, spiritualism, and socialism were obvious threats to the political and economic order. Instead of concentrating on hard work and profits, cultural rebels advocated concentrating on spiritual fulfillment and pleasure. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Beats and the hippies were ridiculed in the mainstream press, criticized by those in power, and ultimately targeted by

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