Re: [sixties-l] 'Letting it all hang out'

From: Ted Morgan (
Date: 12/11/00

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    Interesting question from John D.  My own take is that this had two sources --one
    grounded in the drive for authenticity that can be seen in youthful alienation in
    the 50s (cf. Paul Goodman, the Beats), in the recoil from "uptight" parents and
    procedurally 'hung up' educational (and political) administrators blocking the path
    of movement activism, etc. [a lot of which I feel was well grounded] AND the other
    fed to young people as part of the consumer culture's ethos ranging from the
    general 'indulge yourself now' to the co-optive attention to youth culture,
    'rebelliousness,'be-an-individual' (cf. Tom Frank's "Conquest of Cool").  In
    effect, it was anti-repressive and there was a whole lot of repression built into
    the 'old culture' that the young were legitimately rebelling against, but also
    consumer capitalism is based in many respects on 'anti-repressive' impulses that
    distort & co-opt fundamental human drives for meaning, authenticity, empowerment.
    The latter is still around, in fact arguably far more pervasive (cf. also Mark
    Crispin Miller's "Boxed In" on TV Culture).  I don't think the work of
    psychiatrists had much to do with these phenomena, but the kinds of psychology that
    became popular --from R.D. Laing to Thomas Szaz (sp?) to Carl Rogers to
    transactional analysis, etc.--seemed to be picking on these contemporary ills (&
    In some ways, then, these forces fed into the so-called 'human potential' movement,
    and into kind of 'anything goes', vent-your-rage laissez-faire-ism  --both of which
    arguably are ripe for political co-optation because both are either (a) safely
    compatible with consumer capitalism (e.g., the human potential movement in the
    sense that it tends to personalize rather than politicize, to focus energy on the
    internal rather than --not 'along with'-- external change) or (b) targetable as
    blatant excesses reflective of the "bad Sixties" --that we ought to be done with!
    Thus, for example, we find George Will knocking the Sixties Generation (still) for
    pathetically discovering that they are mortal and hoping for yet another indulgent
    'handout' or entitlement that will 'fix this'; thus Will argues television is full
    of this kind of garbage "because Boomers are now 'in control' of TV" (like
    everything else) -NOT that consumer capitalism, the engine that drives TV has been
    preaching this kind of garbage to everyone (not just boomers) for years.
    But I would be very interested in specific illustrations of this 'let it all hang
    out' phenomenon & its specific sources.
    Ted Morgan
    John Dougill wrote:
    > At some time in the sixties it became the done thing to let it all hang out.
    > Being repressed or inhibited was a crime for those who thought of themselves
    > as progressive or hip, in marked contrast and reaction to the mores of the
    > 1950s.  The notion had a huge influence on personal behaviour, and I'm
    > wondering where it came from.  I presume from the work of psychiatrists, but
    > why did the notion of letting it all hang out become so big in the  sixties
    > in particular and not earlier.  Was there an influential populariser, and
    > does anyone know where the popular talk of 'hang-ups' 'complexes'
    > 'repressed' etc originated?  Californian therapists?  Who for example?
    > Thanks for any thoughts on the subject
    > John Dougill
    > > PS.   I get real sick of lots of the boys on this list who think they have to
    > > explain everything  and are experts about so many things.
    > Whining for no reason may be just as sick.  It's no big deal to read what
    > you want and skip the rest....

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