Re: [sixties-l] "Generation" as the wrong focus

From: robert (
Date: Mon Jun 05 2000 - 20:14:40 CUT

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    dear ted,
            i've been a lurker who has appreciated for a long time your postings.
    Can't say more for lack of time (i got a book in the making too) about the
    generational issue other than:

    intra-generational splits within the Movement was a major unrecognized
    phenomenon, and was denied at the time -- those of the old guard in sds
    wanted to be seen as the older leaders they were, and many who were born in
    the depression and before the end of world war II acted and identified with
    those born after the end of wwII.

    I'm talking about what david kennedy terms the "unnamed" generation of many
    only children activists who saw their role as the adult leaders of the
    movement - and in high school to protect america against fascism. We fit in
    between the "silent" and "beat" generations, and the baby boomers who did
    not have our liberal political conditioning or conservative social

            Overlooking these intra-generational tensions goes along with a
    revisionist tendency to overlook other splits in the movement which were
    present from the start but somehow became polaraized in late 1967 and 1968.
    Darn if I know why.

            The split carries down to today in American society, and to the children
    of the radicals and the children of the flower children. If anyone wants to
    do a book on the subject, there are plenty of agents and editors out there
    looking for someone to do it.

    robert houriet

    At 12:13 PM 6/5/00 EDT, you wrote:
    >[Hope this comes through --via our 'old' system - tm]
    >Quite a few of these recent posts --the "generation-divided" discussion,
    >reflections on changes in
    >us over the years, New Left/ New Right, the discussion of 60s "revolution"
    >anti-nostalgic takes on the 60s-- touch on something I've been thinking a lot
    >about lately while
    >working on my book on "Framing the Sixties: Media Culture and the Eclipse of
    >Democracy" (or
    >something like that): namely, that generation is the wrong focal point for
    >understanding or
    >reconsidering the 60s, for three fundamental reasons: (1) Baby boomers (for
    >want of a better ID)
    >were all over the map in their politics during and since the 60s. Only a
    >fraction at any one point
    >--how large a fraction is obviously open to discussion-- could be called
    >"activists." There were
    >plenty of right-wingers, etc. around (as John Andrew's and Paul Lyons' work
    >demonstrates). (2)
    >Movements of the 60s, while containing a disproportionate (at least
    >numerically --might it not be
    >always so?) number of young people, nonetheless consisted of people of all
    >ages; at least this was
    >true of the civil rights and black power, women's, and antiwar movements; for
    >obvious reasons not
    >the student movement. (3) The Media culture consistently played up the youth
    >aspects of 60s
    >movements, again and again (cf. Gitlin's Whole World, for example), and to a
    >remarkable degree
    >the younger members of these movements (the "shock troops") responded to
    >attention with
    >media-attracting behaviors as a vehicle for "getting the message across."
    >Media attention was
    >driven in good part by market considerations; thus the massive attention to
    >accoutrements, which in turn helped to attract a largely apolitical,
    >second-wave of countercultural
    >'runaways.' These latter, media-hyped 60s behaviors, have been repeatedly
    >hyped in the media as representative of something called "the Sixties"
    >(whether media folks have
    >done this for 60s-bashing propaganda purposes or for market-driven,
    >purposes). Check out, for example, the ravings over the years of George
    >or for that matter
    >the editorials of Time editor, Lance Morrow: it all boils down to a
    >generation. This, in turn, feeds
    >our own misconceptions (and, what, our self-importance?) that our
    >membership is so
    >I would humbly suggest that this blinds us to what's really important, which
    >is the way the media
    >culture and the structural forces and elites it represents helped to deflect
    >(and repress) 60s
    >movements from a course that ultimately and radically challenged the
    >structures which today have
    >become only more pervasive and powerful (e.g., the market, most of all) --one
    >good example is
    >the deflection of a "freedom" orientation alive in both the New Left and New
    >Right (as John
    >Andrew rightly notes) into libertarianism rather than democracy; the
    former is
    >entirely compatible
    >with capitalism; the latter isn't (but more on that another day).
    >There's a brief discussion of generations in Stanley Aronowitz "The Death and
    >Rebirth of
    >American Radicalism," in which he refers to Ernst Bloch's argument that
    >'people inhabit different
    >worlds, or "nows" even as they exist in the same moment of absolute time."
    >that sense there is
    >some meaning to generations, but not only "boomers" vs. "Gen-Xers" of typical
    >media fare, but the
    >differences that occurred between many people entering college in 1964, say,
    >as opposed to 1962
    >or 1968.....
    >I'd be interested in others' thoughts on all this....
    >Ted Morgan
    >Department of Political Science
    >Maginnes Hall #9
    >Lehigh University
    >Bethlehem, PA 18015
    >phone: (610) 758-3345
    >fax: (610) 758-6554

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