subculture whose values and norms of behavior deviate from those of mainstream society
Counterculture is a subculture whose values differ substantially from those of mainstream society.
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- Harwood smiles. "A number of major cities have these autonomous zones, and how a given city chooses to deal with the situation can impact drastically on that city's image. Copenhagen, for instance, was one of the first, and has done very well. Atlanta, I suppose, would be the classic example of what not to do."
- "It's what we do now instead of bohemias," Harwood says.
"Instead of what?"
"Bohemias. Alternative subcultures. They were a crucial aspect of industrial civilization in the two previous centuries. They were where industrial civilization went to dream. A sort of unconscious R&D, exploring alternate societal strategies…And they did, frequently, have locales with which they became associated. But they became extinct."
"We started picking them before they could ripen…as marketing evolved and the mechanisms of recommodification became quicker, more rapacious. Authentic subcultures required backwaters, and time, and there are no more backwaters."
- San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not…but every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time — and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.
My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights — or very early mornings — when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour...booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turnoff to take when I got to the other end...but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went, I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was...
There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda...You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning...And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil...We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave...
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes, you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.
- Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1971.
- Although the '60s counterculture has been much maligned and discredited, it attempted to provide what we still desperately need: a spirited culture of refusal, a counter-life to the reigning corporate culture of death. We don't need to return to that counterculture, but we do need to take up its challenge again. If the work we do produces mostly bad, ugly, and destructive things, those things in turn will tend to re-create us in their image. We need to turn to good, useful, and beautiful work. We need to ask, as Thoreau and Ruskin did, What are the life-giving things? Such important questions are answered for us in the present by the corporate state, while we are left with the most trivial decisions: what programs to watch on TV and what model car to buy.