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.