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

From: monkerud (
Date: Tue Jun 06 2000 - 02:06:02 CUT

  • Next message: monkerud: "Re: [sixties-l] in Berkeley in the sixties"

    You state the matrix well. What can I say except that I agree?

    The other aspect, only an elaboration, is the number of people who
    retreated, and perhaps were never very committed anyway, and I mean
    retreated way back... such that they don't even want to have their names
    associated with any of the ideals that they once held.

    Much of what happened occured because of friendships and group affinities
    rather than because people believed in any particular politics.

    And we don't appear to have provided any continuity. Free markets is the
    rage today but has that not gone about as far as it can before there's a
    swing back to the ideas we spoke of and tried to bring to fruition in the

    best, Don

    >[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" and
    >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 media
    >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 and
    >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 Will,
    >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 generational
    >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." In
    >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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