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USA Culture In 1960s


Culture has been defined as the total way of life of a people. As such, culture is the key defining factor delineating a people or groups of people from others. Culture which includes material aspects like food, dressing, music and the non-material aspects such as customs and traditions is closely related with anthropological factors like race, ethnicity and language. Culture is both static and dynamic at the same time.

Key Characteristics of the US culture in 1960s

In looking at the American culture in the 1960s, it is important to distinguish between popular conceptions of it from the philosophical underpinnings that produced it. The culture of the U.S., in the 1960s has been portrayed mostly in terms of its material aspects and the stereotypes. Once regarded as degenerate, its sights and sounds became the theme of fond replications in dressing, sounds and slangs which manifested in weird hairstyles, unrestrained love and rock music.

The 1960s was a decade in which American capitalism gained ascendancy and its resultant material culture had a bandwagon effect on every aspect of the American life from music and the arts to education, business and politics/governance. This obviously had a degrading effect on the American life and institutions thereby challenging and to a great degree, undermining Victorian puritanical influences. The American view of marriage and sexuality changed drastically making polygamy, polyandry, homosexuality and lesbianism to be less of a taboo than it used to be. Politicians became mere lobbyists for corporate interests and basic norms and values were seriously challenged and undermined if not overthrown. Paradoxically, individualism was emphasized yet the individual became a morally and spiritually endangered species as a result of the pressures arising from a jaded and soulless society. Many tried to escape the reality by delving into drugs while others sought solitude in the woods to experience some measure of attunement with nature that the U.S., had lost.

Attitudinal Shift in the American Culture in the 1960s

Much criticism of the culture of the USA in the 1960s centered on the apparent moral decadence and soullessness that pervaded almost every aspect of the American life during that period. Even the churches were seen to be no more than social gatherings. Underpinning this apparent morass is a philosophy of liberalism which sought to overthrow what was perceived to be the shackling effects of the Victorian style of morality.

The philosophical underpinnings that produced the American culture of the 1960s had antecedents from the mid-nineteenth century through the 1900s, 1920s and 1950s that arose through the social criticisms and cultural revolutions promoted by certain persons. In this sense, the characteristics of the American counter-culture in the 1960s can be seen as an American tradition. Some consider the real legacy of American culture of the 1960s as an enduring propensity of the American capitalist and materialistic society to reinterpret even the most sophisticated philosophies in commercial terms thereby diluting its power and effects.

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