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The Making of a Counter-Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition [Paperback]

Theodore Roszak

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Book Description

27 Oct 1995
When it was published twenty-five years ago, this book captured a huge audience of Vietnam War protesters, dropouts, and rebels - and their baffled elders. Theodore Roszak found common ground between 1960s student radicals and hippie dropouts in their mutual rejection of what he calls the technocracy - the regime of corporate and technological expertise that dominates industrial society. He traces the intellectual underpinnings of the two groups in the writings of Herbert Marcuse and Norman O. Brown, "Allen Ginsberg" and "Paul Goodman". In a new introduction, Roszak reflects on the evolution of counter culture since he coined the term in the sixties. Alan Watts wrote of "The Making of a Counter Culture" in the "San Francisco Chronicle" in 1969, 'If you want to know what is happening among your intelligent and mysteriously rebellious children, this is the book. The generation gap, the student uproar, the New Left, the beats and hippies, the psychedelic movement, rock music, the revival of occultism and mysticism, the protest against our involvement in Vietnam, and the seemingly odd reluctance of the young to buy the affluent technological society - all these matters are here discussed, with sympathy and constructive criticism, by a most articulate, wise, and humane historian.

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More About the Author

Theodore Roszak: born in 1933, a Californian Professor of History, director of the Ecopsychology Institute at California State University, social critic and novelist, author of the influential and acclaimed The Making of the Counterculture and The Cult Of Information - described by Fritjof Capra as 'one of the keenest observers and most articulate interpreters of contemporary cultural, philosophical, and scientific trends'.

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"Whether or not the dissenting young read this book, others who care about our culture, youth, technology and religion should."--"Christian Century

About the Author

Theodore Roszak is Professor of History at California State University, Hayward. Among his many books are The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein (1995), The Cult of Information: A Neo-Luddite Treatise on High-Tech, Artificial Intelligence, and the True Art of Thinking (California, 1994) and, as coeditor, Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind (1995).

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
83 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE Essential Book For Understanding the 60s Counterculture! 29 May 2000
By Barron Laycock - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is by far the most seminal book one can read in attempting to get an accurate and unvarnished understanding of the sixties counterculture; the social and historical reasons for its rise, its intellectual underpinnings, and the way in which its actions were informed and indeed propelled by its unique constellation of integrating values into a cultural ethos.
Recently the counterculture has been viciously attacked, intellectually trashed and intentionally trivialized by a series of books and articles by mainstream neoconservatives who wish to discredit the counterculture once and for all by blaming it and the "permissiveness" it spawned for the manifest ills the mainstream society has actually engendered through the evolution of its own corrupted, nonrepresentative, and nondemocratic political process. Many ignorant youthful authors have succumbed to attributing fallacious ideas and notions of this ethos in a way that is not only inaccurate and disingenuous, but which serves to trivialize the quite serious cultural critique it comprised.
All that is set aside here. Remember, this book was written more than 30 years ago, even as the counterculture was rising, so it is very much a observational history, one done at ground zero of the demonstrations, sit-ins, when the tumult and strident calls for radical new solutions rang clear, and the heady air of nascent social and intellectual revolution was in the air.
Here one finds the counterculture placed in its proper context, and not just discussed 'en passant' as the demonized triage of sex, drugs, and rock and roll'. One can hardly understand the sixties in such simplistic terms, and Roszak helps one to understand the complex welter of social, economic, and political factors that led to its emergence. In its essence the counterculture was a social and political reaction to the hypocrisy of the mainstream materialistic culture from which it sprang, and as sociologist Philp Slater has commented elsewhere, most of the individual elements of the value system of the counterculture stem from values the mainstream culture in fact claims to hold but actually does not practice and employ.
This, then, is book with remarkable insight, perspective, and historical verve. Rosazak nails quite accurately the tensions, problems and contradictions associated with the rise of the counterculture and the innate problems its continued existence eventually portended for the materialistic mainstream culture. Of course, as history shows us, the sixties ethos was flattened by the overwhelming onslaught of the establishment and the Ohio National Guard, and the political and social ethos of the counterculture melded into the domain of increasingly isolated private and personal philosphies of hippies being assimilated into the mainstream.
The fact that its ethos is now blamed for much of the discontent and confusion of contemporary America is a likely result of what happens when one tries to merge antagonistic ideas and notions into a cultural system that is inconsistent with its own. This is a wonderful book, and one needs to read before the victors of those fractious times so revise the official version of the history of the 1960s that those of us who were there will no longer recognize it.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent discussion of 1960's counterculture. 30 Dec 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This book offers a highly detailed examination of the relationship of the late 1960's counterculture to cutting-edge intellectual ideas of the same era; Roszak discusses Herbert Marcuse and Norman Brown, among others, in great detail and shows very lucidly how their ideas influenced intellectual and political movements on college campuses in both America and Europe. Roszak's prescience here is amazing, considering that he wrote this book in 1967-68, while the phonemena he discusses were still unfolding! It would be interesting if Roszak were to write a response to his own book today, considering how the counterculture of the early 1990's has been so rapidly devoured by the mainstream--Roszak foresaw the possibility of this happening to the 1960's counterculture, but it took far longer then than it has now. Roszak's ruminations on the absurdity of the Alternative Nation would be welcome with this reader!
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Roszak's The Making of a Counter Culture 7 Jan 2004
By Sarah Apgov - Published on Amazon.com
Overall I was pleased with Roszak's book. Most of the pieces i've read about the sixties and the "hippie" era focus only on the sex, the drugs, and the music. While Roszak did dicuss this, his book was quite different because it focused mainly on the politcal and social issues of the time. Roszak include everything from the Vietnam War to how the counter culture has affected the lifestyles of the typical American family. Although Roszk is clearly on the far left side of the political spectrum, it is obvious that he tries his best to be objective and is sure to back up most of his points and information with credible sources. What I admire most about Roszak's book is the tone he takes. In my experience, many adult pieces concerning this era in history and the taboo, radical things that went on are often full of criticism towards that particular generation. Roszak did not criticize the protestors or the acid droppers, like most do. In his book, he carefully explained and supported the motives for these people, suggestng his approval and admiration for those who weren't afraid to stand up for what they believed in, no matter how much society frowned upon it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What we have lost, what we still might be 25 Jan 2012
By William Timothy Lukeman - Published on Amazon.com
I can't improve on previous reviewer Barron Laycock's thorough & insightful assessment of this seminal book, so let me offer a different sort of review: why Roszak's work is still relevant.

In his new introduction to this 1995 reissue, Roszak looks at the counterculture's hopes & ideals, and how the reactionary forces of America successfully fought against them. He warns of increasing economic disparity, a dismantling of civil rights, a deadening of consciousness & imagination, an increase in conformity & mindless distraction, the unholy alliance of unbridled capitalism & fundamentalist Christianity, further dirty little wars on the fringes of empire ... and look where we are in 2012.

Let me quote Roszak directly on what the counterculture was about:

"Never before had protest raised issues that went so philosophically deep, delving into the very meaning of reality, sanity, and human purpose. Out of that dissent grew the most ambitious agenda for the reappraisal of cultural values that any society has ever produced. Everything was called into question: family, work education, success, child rearing, male-female relations, sexuality, urbanism, science, technology, progress. The meaning of wealth, the meaning of love, the meaning of life -- all became issues in need of examination. What is 'culture'? Who decides what 'excellence' is? Or 'knowledge' or 'reason'?"

We've seen how the status quo reduces & homogenizes the recent past to make it not only blandly palatable to the general public, but bleeds it dry of any real power & impact. Thus the counterculture becomes a handful of images, slogans & songs to be repeated ad nauseam & used in commercials or in derision. Rather than consider the tough & potentially life-changing questions the counterculture posed, the public gets amusing pabulum that won't upset their mass-produced lives for an instant.

Was the counterculture too naive? Too trusting? Too idealistic? None of that can be denied -- but again, such an approach required a great deal of vulnerability & trust, a willingness to take chances & fail. You won't find much of that today, in a society that worships wealth & worldly success & personal shallowness above all else. Certainly few people want to ask whether it's all worth the price of losing one's own soul.

And this is why Roszak's work is all the more relevant today. American culture has grown more crass, more empty, more destructive over the passing decades, as daily existence becomes more precarious & despairing for the vast majority. The counterculture offered alternatives to the anti-life of acquisition, ego, and the ethos of hatred & fear. The time is overdue for more people to start asking those uncomfortable but vital questions again ... and this book is an important starting point.

Most highly recommended!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading in schools today 20 Oct 2013
By D. Bergin - Published on Amazon.com
Because of the profound insights, and having been in HS and college in the 1960's, there's a strong temptation to write many words about this. I'll just say that it's really important, especailly now, for our population to look at where our society and country has been, where it is, and where it can and should go. It's amazing to see the contrast between an intellectual rebellion then, against technological advancement and the control over individuals that it was seen to represent, and the relatively total surrender now to exactly that --- the control that high tech and the corporations has over our personal lives and our government. The corporations got us hooked on petroleum, on TV, now the internet, and our education focus even seems to reflect that, popular focus now on "STEM", science, technology, engineering, math instead of history, sociology, anthropology, humanities. This book is deeply thoughtful, and we need more books like it now, more people to read, think, and work for change based on true information, not the kind of misinformaton that's being broadcast, listened to, and used as the basis for alarmingly misguided political organizing and action.
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