The Prison Was the American Dream: Youth Revolt and the Origins of the Counterculture
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This thesis discusses the reasons for the emergence of the American counterculture in the mid-1960s, and makes a significant contribution to the existing literature on the subject with an innovative methodology. Historians have neglected to study the counterculture?s grievances, the issues, and events that birthed it, employing a systematic year-by-year analysis. And few have used the sources most appropriate for drawing conclusions: the underground press, a medium hippies used to communicate with other like-minded individuals. This thesis does both. The most imperative factors that led to the emergence of the counterculture can be firmly placed in the first years of the 1960s. Students and dropouts feared the prospect of worldwide nuclear annihilation, and railed against the Cold War and the Cold War consensus that left little in the way of political alternatives. Old Guard liberals became targets, for they seemed to be complacent with America?s foreign policy, which prolonged and entrenched the Cold War world. American society and the Establishment frustrated and angered the young. It posed a danger to civil liberties and equality for minorities, while restricting freedom. Most grievously, American universities and those who ran them sought to assimilate youths into the military-industrial complex, threatening one?s individuality and humanity. Youths resisted becoming a part of the social machine, a cog in the system. These factors, combined with the assassination of Kennedy and the influence of musicians like Bob Dylan and the Beatles, put many on an alienation trajectory. Then, in 1965, Lyndon Johnson committed the first combat troops to Vietnam. America?s involvement in the war sent those who weathered the shocks of the early 1960s spiraling further off into alienation, but the war alone, affecting those coming of age in the mid to late 1960s, produced new hippies, hundreds of thousands, if not millions. The actions of the Establishment, including its war, campus paternalism and bureaucracy, police repression, lack of democracy, the capitalist system, and corrupt government leaders made the young more cynical, angry, disgusted, while the intolerant majority and the prospect of living a conventional lifestyle further alienated youths.
Bach, Damon R. (2008). The Prison Was the American Dream: Youth Revolt and the Origins of the Counterculture. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from