John Locke, Original Hipster
The Enlightenment roots of counterculture
by Nick Gillespie for Reason
In a country where one of the most popular genres of music is called “alternative,” the great refusenik Henry David Thoreau is a national icon, and acknowledged pot smokers have served as president (Bill Clinton) and speaker of the House (Newt Gingrich), would the last unabashedly mainstream American please turn off The Lawrence Welk Show? When the subversive has gone mainstream, does it make sense to talk about a “counterculture” anymore?
posted by Cyndy
That’s one of the questions raised by Ken Goffman and Dan Joy’s enjoyably antic if slightly cracked Counterculture Through the Ages: From Abraham to Acid House (Villard). The book’s short and provocative answer is this: In a post-9/11 world, one in which religious and neo-Luddite fundamentalists at home and abroad seek to stymie individualism and technological advances, it’s more important than ever to understand and appreciate what might be called the countercultural imperative, whose chief characteristics are personal freedom and constant change.
Better known by his techno-hipster nom de revolution, R.U. Sirius, Goffman is in a particularly strong position to plumb the issue. As a co-founder of Mondo 2000, a magazine that, along with Wired, helped to define and mythologize digital culture in the 1990s, and as a collaborator with LSD guru Timothy Leary, Goffman is steeped in the history and practice of the individuals and groups that have long delighted in turning on, tuning in, dropping out, skewering the bourgeoisie, and otherwise monkeying around with convention. (Joy originated the book project and contributed at various stages, but the volume is primarily Goffman's, which is how I will refer to it.)[ read more ]